6.I: Introduction

We often look to the first humans for insight into our natural animalistic condition.  Are humans naturally monogamous?  Why do fathers and mothers raise their children together?  What foods are we best suited to eat, and why are we so inclined to get fat?  How did humans come to master fire and tools?  And, hey … what happened to our fur?!      

Geologists discuss the last few million years in terms of ice ages, while archaeologists think in terms of stone ages.  Consult the timeline below for some of the related technical terms. Section II discusses the overall causes and effects of the ice ages that have gripped Earth for the last few million years.  For our purposes, the most important consequence was the evolution of what we now call the Homo genusearly humans.  The paleontological and archaeological record of that evolution – the “hard” data of bones and stones – is the subject of Section III. 

Chapter 7 was the point of departure for the hominin clade from the rest of the great apes.  The commonalities of humans with other apes were discussed in Chapter 7.  Chapter 6 focuses on the qualities that set humans apart from the other great apes.  These differences are harder to date but are reserved for this chapter as a practical matter.  Aside from skeletal anatomy, Section IV discusses the major soft-tissue and behavioral traits that set the hominins and humans apart from chimpanzees.

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Continue to Section 6.II:  The Ice Ages

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