Human Origins

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Map Code: Ax01286

Australopithecine sites are scattered throughout southern and northeastern Africa. Australopithecus (‘southern ape’) existed between c. 3.85 and 2.95 million years ago and shared characteristics with humans: they used simple tools and Australopithecus footprints on the banks of Lake Tanganyika bear a close resemblance to human footprints. Thought to be a common ancestor of the genus Homo, they were tool-using bipeds and distinct from apes, who are quadrupeds. Overlapping with Australopithecus were the Homo hablis (aka ‘handy-man’ because of their ability to manipulate simple tools). Fossil evidence of H. hablis was discovered at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. H. hablis is thought to be an evolutionary link between primitive Australopithecus and more advanced Homo species, such as Homo erectus, whose sites are found around Olduvai Gorge and Lake Turkana. These are thought to be the first hunter-gatherer hominins and have been shown to be genetically linked to the first modern humans (Homo sapiens).

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