An exercise in applied sensibility
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Anatomically Modern Humans

Posted on Aug 09 2012

Outlasting all other hominids, Homo sapiens replaced archaic humans becoming the only primate species to populate the entire globe. Both anatomically modern humans and archaic humans occupied parts of Eurasia together for some 20 to 30 thousand years sharing culture and tool making technology. Interbreeding among migrating Homo sapiens and Archaic Humans seem to be an unlikely scenario. Arguments against interbreeding among the different human species, points to DNA research that strongly suggest that the genetic continuity producing modern humans reflect a separate ancestral lineage from archaic humans. Meaning that the most recent common ancestor of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) and now extinct hominids probably existed before 200,000 years ago, or before anatomically modern humans is said to have migrated out of Africa to eventually populate the rest of the globe. Other interpretations of the existing archeological evidence propose a “multi-regional” theory: a simultaneous evolution of archaic hominids (possibly Homo Erectus) in different areas of the world. A scenario which some suggest is the basis for ethnic differences in humans. Most researchers are adamant in pointing out however, that similarities and characteristics shared by all members of the existing human population results from our common origin. Recent analysis of Mitochondrial DNA taken from people representing different ethnic groups from around the world have led biochemical researchers to conclude that our present population of over 6.7 billion individuals is no more than 8,ooo generations removed from our common ancestor.  Our great, great… great grandmother, appropriately dubbed “EVE” (Mitochondrial eve); the co-progenitor of modern Homo Sapiens, lived in Africa about 150,000 years bp.

Around 30,000 years ago archaic humans died out. Homo Sapiens, demonstrating a new and profound quality of cognitive skills, possessed:

  • Advance Language (use of grammar – allowing the free exchange of complex thoughts and ideas);
  • A wide variety of specialized bone, antler, and stone tools; and adornments (bone and antler represents a major advance in old stone age tool making technology);
  • Music, and art(cogitative expressions – said to have developed as means of communicating thoughts and ideas beyond the limitations of spoken language);
  • Ritual habits(including ceremonial practices – and burials dating back 45,000 years or more where personal effects were interred with human remains – such behavior does not represent conclusive proof, but might indicate that a few stone age hominids believed some aspect of reality transcends death).

The accelerated change in cognition and human abilities has been one of the enduring puzzles in the study of human evolution.  The accepted explanations as to why living things evolve biological traits and attributes that set one specie apart from another could shed some light on how humans became intelligent creatures. A force that is commonly persistent throughout the evolution of life is the innate motivation to survive which shape and reshape the boundaries of all species and organism’s unique ability to exist and sustain itself for a period of time in a given environment. The process of adapting to a particular environment is the common engine of change and innovation in the world of living things. Naturally, the human animal is no exception; our physical evolution is a product of that inherent motivation to survive which directs the course of evolution for all living things. Through human intelligence, our inherent motivation to survive is allowed to influence the many aspects of human behavior, giving aid to the on-going process of change and innovation in humans that begun anew some 5 million years bp. Scientists disagree as to how and exactly when humans became “intelligent” creatures, most speculate the process was gradual. A natural occurrence that took place over millions of years while hominids roamed the continents of Africa and Eurasia – rather than a sudden development that arrived with modern humans. Given the fact that Mammals in general, and primates in particular, demonstrates the highest level of cognitive abilities, it’s safe to say that early humans (primates who were no longer primarily tree dwellers) were forced to adopt new strategies for survival in their terrestrial niche where there were many hazards and obstacles. A more efficient system for processing information gradually evolved in humans, giving a distinct advantage to creatures whose physical restrictions might have proven to be a disadvantage in many ways. Fossil evidence show that along with various other evolving traits and adaptations, a gradual increase in brain size was, in fact, one of the many characteristics shared among different species of Homos. Studies also reveal that a proficient use of language in every day life required physical changes in the brain structure of primitive hominids; changes that would accommodate the abilities necessary to receive and process abstract thoughts as information. Hominids with a modern brain size and structure (Homo Sapiens) date to around 200,000 years bp.

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