12. Homo erectus

6. homo erectus

The control of fire turned the ancestor-australopiths into Homo erectus. Fire use began in one group of ancestor-australopiths, but soon spread throughout all groups, by exchanges of sex partners and group interactions (in a way similar to the dispersion of agriculture later on). The H. erectus population dispersed over Africa and started the first Out of Africa migration into Eurasia.


Traditionally H. erectus is always imagined as a male. So I was glad to find a reconstruction of a female H. erectus on the blog-site “Kay Nou = Our House”. Thanks, Kay Nou. Her digging stick was nice; but she missed her hide bag. So I gave her one. Unlike in this picture, she was never alone on the savanna, nor elsewhere.

Finds from an earlier period, in the archaeological sites Dmanisi (1,7 million years ago) and Flores (descendants of Java hominids from 1,6 million years ago) show a more primitive hominid, with a more primitive toolbox. So many paleos today believe that it was an earlier hominid, H. habilis or H. rudolfensis that spread Out of Africa into the Far East, developing to H. erectus. A later erectus group returned to Africa as ancestors of the Turkana population. For the humanosopher, this theory of a much earlier Out of Africa migration corroborates the early use of fire, because moving out of the tropics requires fire-use.

3 Responses to “12. Homo erectus”

  • Alan:

    Wood is far easier and far more intuitive to work than stone. Chimps eat a lot of vegetables and process said vegetables quite satisfactorily with their teeth and simple gathered stones. When chimps go for meat, they fetch a sharp stick and hunt down a monkey. There is your basic tool kit: spears for meat, unworked stones for veggies.

    Ardipithecus was bipedal and perhaps 5 to 6 mya could easily have carried a spear long before stones began being shaped for cutting. There are many small animals that could have been killed and carried before we learned to cut up the larger ones.

  • admin:

    @ Alan,
    You are definitely right that wood is easier at hand than stones and I also think that Ardi was wielding a sharpened stick, at least the females, as digging stick for digging tubers and roots. But for defending against lions and hyenas and buffaloes sticks are less useful than stones, with which you can keep them away from a safe distance. In my opinion, our early ancestors (Ardi may have been one but alas there is no label on a fossil)could not forage in safety without a pile of stones, carried in a skin bag. The Stone Age may have been started from the very beginning.
    As for your link: there I read some highly disputable stuff, apart from the more scientific content.

  • Alan:

    D’oh! Wrong link! sorry. I cannot find the link intended, but wiki has a summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schoningen_Spears

    To this day spears have been used to kill lions – too bad for the lions most hunters have guns now. Stones do have better range for chasing predators away, but spears were a mainstay for hunting.

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Used abbreviations

GHs: gatherers/hunters (the phase from 2 million years ago to 10.000 years ago)

AGRs: agriculturers (the phase from 10.000 years ago till now)

NT(s)Neanderthal people

MSA(s): Middle Stone Age people (African NTs)

AMH(s): Anatomical Modern Humans (H sapiens people), like we are

(m)ya: (million) years ago

ANBOs: Ancestor Bonobos (ape-men), our earliest human ancestors

Paleos: all scientists that are important for our story.