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Chapter 11

Chapter 11 Textbook Notes

Course Code
Heather Miller

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Learning Objectives
Compare premodern humans with earlier hominins (specifically, Homo erectus) both
anatomically and in terms of what the archaeological evidence tells us
Explain why premodern humans are called “humans” and how they relate to modern
Explain how the latest DNA evidence helps resolve the issue of whether the Neandertals are
a different species from living people
All living people today are members of one species, sharing a common anatomical pattern
and similar behavioral potentials
We call hominins like us “modern Homo sapiens
Homo erectus took crucial steps in the human direction and defined a new adaptive level in
human evolution
When, Where and What?
Most of the hominins lived during the Middle Pleisocene
o Middle Pleistocene the portion of the Pleistocene epoch beginning 780,000 ya
and ending 125,000 ya
Later premodern humans, especially the Neandertals, lived well into the Late Pleistocene
o Late Pleistocene the portion of the Pleistocene epoch beginning 125,000 ya and
ending approximately 10,000 ya
Middle Paleolithic cultural period that began about 200,000 ya and ended around 40,000-
30,000 ya. Roughly the same period in sub-Saharan Africa is called the Middle Stone Age
Upper Paleolithic cultural period beginning roughly 40,000-30,000 ya and ending about
10,000 ya and distinguished by major technological innovations, the creation of the earliest
human art widely recognized as such, and many other accomplishments. Best known from
western Europe; similar industries are also known from central and eastern Europe and
The Pleistocene
Has been called the Ice Age because it was marked my periodic advances and retreats of
massive continental glaciations
o Glaciations climatic intervals when continental ice sheets cover much of the
northern continents. Glaciations are associated with colder temperatures in
northern latitudes and more arid conditions in southern latitudes, (Africa)
o Interglacials Climatic intervals when continental ice sheets are retreating,
eventually becoming much reduced in size. Interglacials in northern latitudes are
associated with warmer temperatures, while in southern latitudes the climates
becomes wetter.
These glaciations, which enveloped huge swaths of Europe, Asia and North American as well
as Antarctica, were mostly confined to northern latitudes
Hominins living at this time (still restricted to the Old World), were severely affected as the
climate, flora and animal life shifted during these Pleistocene oscillations
In Africa, the main effects were related to changing rainfall patterns
The changing availability of food resources certainly affected hominins in Africa
During the warmer interglacial, the ice sheets shrank, sear levels rose, and certain migration
routes reopened
Dispersal of Middle Pleistocene Hominins
Like their H. erectus predecessors, later hominins were widely distributed in the Old World,
with discoveries coming from three continents Africa, Asia, and Europe
Middle Pleistocene Hominins: terminology
The premodern human of the Middle Pleistocene generally succeeded H. erectus
The earliest premodern humans exhibit several H. erectus characteristics:
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o The face is large, the brows are projected, the forehead is low, and in some cases the
cranial vault is still thick
Compared with H. erectus, these premodern humans possessed:
o An increased brain size, a more rounded braincase (maximum breadth is higher up
on the sides), a more veritical nose, and a less angled back of the skull (occipital)
As early as 850,000 ya and extending to about 200,000 ya, the fossils from Africa and Europe
are placed within Homo heidelbergensis (more primitive members of Homo sapiens)
H. heidelbergensis is a transition species between H. erectus and later hominins (H. sapiens)
Premodern Humans of the Middle Pleistocene
In Africa, the site known as Kabwe (in Sambia), fieldworkers discovered a complete cranium
together with other cranial and postcranial elements belong to several inividuals
o The skull’s massive browridge (one of the largest of any hominin), low vault, and
prominent occipital torus recall those of H. erectus
o The occipital region is less angulated, the cranial vault bones are thinner, and the
cranial base is essentially modern
Bodo is another significant African premodern fossil dated to relatively early in the Middle
Pleistocene (one of the oldest specimens of H. heidelbergensis
The Bodo cranium shows distinctive patterns of cut marks perhaps related to cannibalism as
a ritual
The general premodern fossils indicate a close relationship between them, almost certainly
representing a single species (referred to as H. heidelbergensis)
During the Middle Pleistocene, Europe was more widely and consistently occupied than it
was earlier in human evolution
The time range of European premodern humans extends the full length of the Middle
Pleistocene and beyond
Most recent and more completely studied H. heidelbergensis fossils have been found
throughout much of Europe
Paleoanthropologists interpret the hominin morphology as showing several indications of an
early Neandertal-like pattern, with arching browridges, projecting midface, and other
Neandertal features
Asian premodern specimens discovered in China also display both earlier and later
Chinese paleoanthropologists suggest that the more ancestral traits, such as a sagittal ridge
and flattened nasal bones, are shared with H. erectus fossils from Zhoukoudian
Some Chinese researchers have argues that anatomically modern Chinese didn’t evolve from
H. sapiens in either Europe or Africa; instead they evolved locally in China from a separate H.
erectus lineage
Lower Paleolithic Premodern Human Culture
Acheulian technology changed relatively little until near the end of the Lower Paleolithic
Flake tools and hard axes, many of which are smaller than early Acheulian hand axes, are
commonly found in European assemblages
Among their technological accomplishments, about 300,000 ya, later premoden humans in
Africa and Europe invented the prepared-core method in striking flakes
o Prepared-Core Method pertaining to stone cores that a toolmaker shape into a
preplanned form before striking flakes from it; enable predictable flake shape and
thickness; can be efficient in the use of raw materials
Hominin populations adapted to the seasonal climatic exttremes of life outside the tropics in
many ways, eventually including the controlled use of fire and the construction of shelters
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