Homo Erectus

February 6, 2003

4TH Hour

Homo erectus, which means ‘upright man’ , existed between 1.8 and 300,000 years ago. Due to Homo erectus’ posture and large brain it is regarded as the first fully human group. Homo erectus persisted for well over a million years and was the first hominid known to have migrated off the African continent into Asia, Indonesia, and Europe. Characteristics of Homo erectus are a large brain capacity ( 800 ‑ 1300 cc), a large face and thick skull, heavy teeth, brow ridges and a forehead that recedes.

Homo erectus is a large brained species, with adult brains ranging from 900 to 1200 cc. The largest brain sizes of Homo erectus fall within the range of modern humans, although, the Homo erectus brain is configured somewhat differently than our own. Throughout the existence of Homo erectus, their cranial capacity went from approximately 750 to 1250cc. This expanding brain case came to dominate the shrinking face, and foreheads began to develop in the later members of the species most likely as a result of a growing frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls many of our higher functions such as foresight, concentration, and reasoning.

Among early Homo erectus, males are much larger than females. By about a million years ago, however, the size ratio of the sexes changes and becomes roughly the same as in modern humans‑‑females are approximately 80% as large as males. Scientists speculate that this size change in later H. erectus signals important behavior changes in the species. That is, Homo erectus’ anatomy at this point suggests that a human‑like social structure had emerged. If that is the case, this may be one of he most important milestones in human development. Scientific are unable to find confirming evidence about social behavior in the fossil record, however, simply because evidence of this kind is seldom preserved.

Below the neck, Homo sapiens and Homo erectus are practically identical. Homo erectus stood about five feet six inches tall. "Tukana Boy" was an African discovery, which shows that Homo erectus had a similar body size to humans. The skeleton of this find is more robust than those of modern humans, implying greater strength. The period that this boy lived in was 1.6 million years ago.

Being able to construct tools, such as handaxes, was within the capacity of Homo erectus. Homo erectus, according to some studies, made use of fire and occupied caves. was responsible for pioneering the use of standard tools (such as the hand ax), big‑game hunting, and the use of fire. It is complex techniques such as these that helps link Homo erectus to that of modern man.

Between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago, Homo erectus evolved into Homo sapiens. Transitional forms between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens are referred to as archaic Homo sapiens.