Monday, September 10, 2012



Long ago, the Earth was populated by many kinds of humans.  Today, we modern humans (Homo sapiens) are alone on the Earth (except perhaps for the “Hobbit” (H. floresiensis) of Indonesia). The development of Humankind from prehistory to modern times is like an orchard of fruit trees.  Some of the trees continuously bore fruit, while some of the other trees cross-pollinated with the fruit-bearing ones.  After a while some trees died off, while the other trees flourished wildly.  However, eventually all the trees died off out except for one (perhaps two) lone tree. 
            Tracing the Human line, back in time, is difficult, because the fossil records are incomplete.  Since it involves humans, we react to our history as we would with our own families. Like all families, our Early Human Family is full of quirky and long-lost people.  There are those relatives we would rather not think about, as well as those relatives who we are proud to be related to.  For example, consider the difference between Cro-Magnons (H. sapiens) and Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis), in our Early Human Family, and how we react to each.

            Four to two million years ago (mya), several Families of Early Humans roamed Africa.  As the climate became drier, the forests transformed into grasslands.  The Early Humans walked upright, but still regarded trees as their homes.  Walking upright gave Them an advantage because They could see various predators lurking in the grass. (One predator, Dinofelis (a saber-toothed cat) had often feasted on Early Humans.)
            The Earliest Families of Humans were Australopithecus, Kenyantropus, and Paranthropus.  They all could manipulate small objects, which would allow the next Family to make tools.  The most famous of these Earliest Families was Australopithecus.  “Lucy” (Au. Afarensis) was once thought to be the “missing link” between apes and humans.  The only Kenyantropus was K. platyops who was named for his flat face.  Meanwhile, Paranthropus, nicknamed “Nutcracker Man”, had strong jaws to eat nuts and hard plants.     However, only Australopithecus developed into Homo, the next Family of Early Humans.
Fred Spoor, a noted paleontologist stressed that, “East Africa was a crowded place with multiple species.” Imagine a world of different Families of Humans, with each with their own sphere of influence possessing special talents.  Simply because one Family seemed “less advanced” than another Family, did not mean that They could not survive at all. These Earliest Humans could successfully cope with the particular challenges in their lives.
These Earliest Humans show us that it is good to experiment, and to encourage diversity. Though some of Them died off, all of the Earliest Humans contributed to the whole of Humankind.  We need to honor the efforts of these Earliest People in becoming who we are today.

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