In the previous article, we discussed the last period in Earth’s history. Now it is time we talk about the evolution of humankind and conclude the History of Life series.

All the articles of History of Life series

Evolution of primates

The first primates came about 65 million years ago in North America. Later on, they migrated to Eurasia and flourished. From there, some species moved to Africa and they were the ancestor of modern apes and humans. The first Old World monkeys appeared about 35 million years ago. In the Miocene, the first evidence for a hominoid appeared- the Oreopithecus, found in coal beds of Italy. Between 8 and 6 million years ago, chimpanzees and gorillas created the new line, that led to humans. The hominins genus that conquered the continent was Australopithecus. There were many species, most well-adapted to climbing and for us, quite similar to modern monkeys. However, the Australopithecus lasted only 2 million years, to then become completely extinct. 

First in the evolution of humankind, Australopithecus dominated Africa for 2 million years
The Australopithecus dominated in Africa for 2 million years
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First Homo Genus 

The evolution of humankind knows many species in the genus Homo. The first one evolved less than 3 million years ago- Homo habilis. It was the first tool-using species, with a brain about the size of chimpanzees. However, the frontal cortex- the part responsible for complex planning and other cognitive functions- was already a bit more developed. About 1.5 million years ago Homo erectus became the first species to use complex tools. However, none of these species is the one we come from. Humans came from Africa and then, still as many species, migrated and replaced Homo erectus and other hominins. Our first-line ancestor- Archaic Homo sapiens evolved 400,000 and 250,000 years ago.

The Evolution of Humankind 1
The skull of the Homo erectus
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The Paleolithic

We distinguish the Paleolithic as a period with the first use of tools. The beginning dates back to 3.3 million years ago, whereas the end of that period comes with the end of Pleistocene. At that time humans were hunters and gatherers, migrating seasonally. The nomadic lifestyle required constant focus on moving, creating shelters, and gathering food. However, by the end of the period, the first approaches of cultures appear. Those include cave paintings, jewelry, and rock art. Interestingly, most of them were somehow connected to the burial ceremonies. During the Paleolithic humans lived mostly on the terrain of modern Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. By the end of the period, many Homo groups went extinct.

The Evolution of Humankind 2
In the Paleolithic humans led the nomadic lifestyle
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The Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic comes with a great revolution, sometimes called the most important one in the evolution of humankind. At some point, our ancestors decided, that the nomadic lifestyle comes with many unnecessary challenges. It the Neolithic they started settling, creating first farms and houses. It comes with the development of agriculture, clothing, and the technology of tools-creating. It is also when humans started creating first communities. There were often based on mutual benefits coming from the barter trade. Household exchanged goods, which later enabled the specialization of roles. The end of the Neolithic is marked with the development of metallurgy. In the Bronze Age first forms of writing and civilization developed. 

The Evolution of Humankind 3
The Neolithic revolution is one of the most important in humankind’s history
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Conclusion of the series

Over the next years after the Bronze Age, Homo sapiens became the only remaining member of its genus and dominated the planet. In the immortal words of one of its specimens, Carl Sagan, we stand at a shore of a cosmic ocean. Finding a completely new, extraterrestrial kind of life would help us understand the evolution of life on our planet in a completely different way. Evolution never stops, even though the results will be visible in millions of years. Until then, there are still many question marks on the Geological Time Scale and many studies are being pursued right now. Understanding the origin of life on our planet helps us understand its functions and relations between organisms today.

Read the previous in the series: The Quaternary Period.

Author’s message

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[…] The evolution of mankind […]


A very interesting document. It shows the relationship in chronological order of the homo species. Sometimes we learn bit and pieces here and there but not a sequence of what came first and what came afterwards.

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