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Human Timeline: How Long Have Humans Existed?

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Human Timeline

In the grand scheme of things, humans have existed for a minuscule portion of Earth’s history. Much less than 1%. If you hold out your arm and clipped a fingernail, that’s less than the duration that humans have existed on Earth.

Here’s a breakdown of the human timeline:

  • HOMO SAPIENS: The earliest anatomically modern human (Homo sapiens) fossil found was dated at 200,000 years old in Morocco, Africa. They had modern faces and used stone tools.
  • HOMO HABILIS: But if you look at our genus (Homo), Homo Habilis arose 2.8 million years ago in Africa.
  • HOMININS: Hominins which includes human species and immediate ancestors emerged about 7 million years ago in Africa.
  • HOMINIDS: Finally, hominids which includes gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos and humans existed 11 to 16 million years ago.

What’s the difference between homo sapiens, hominins and hominids?

HOMINID: “Hominid” (Hominidae family) have the broadest meaning referring to all Great Apes and their ancestors. Hominids were the early proto-humans who are believed to have stemmed from lesser apes such as modern gibbons.

HOMININ: Hominins are extinct or alive species that are more closely related to humans than chimpanzees. This includes Genus Homo, Australopithecus, Ardipithecus, and Paranthropus. Humans are the only remaining living hominin.

HOMO: Homo or “human being” emerged from the extinct Australopithecus genus. The first appearance of the Homo genus was in Eastern Africa as the “Homo Habilis” species. It stood about one meter tall with a larger brain and teeth than its australopithecine relatives.

HOMO SAPIEN: Finally, Homo Sapiens made the first appearance on the family tree about 200,000 years ago in Africa with modern faces and larger brains. Neanderthals had an equally large brain, which existed about 300,000 years ago. There is no proof that modern-day humans are related to H. Heidelbergensis.

Why did homo sapiens survive?

Homo Sapiens

Humans migrated and spread throughout the continents. Like an insurance policy, this helped prevent humans from extinction during cold spells.

But our distinct advantage was our enormous brains and ability to communicate. Homo sapiens were known for their artistic talents in cave paintings and clay work.

They made hooks and spears to catch fish and invented the spear thrower. Thus, it made them better hunters because they could hunt from a distance.

About 160-40 thousand years ago, the “doubly wise man” was the recent form of modern humans “homo sapiens sapiens”. Eventually, modern humans invented a more complex language, practiced agriculture, and built cities.

READ MORE: The Human Footprint: The Emergence of 7.6 Billion People on Earth

3 Comments

  1. It’s more likely that we all hominins originated from the same/around the same area.. than it being more likely that conditions were *just* right for there to be hominins evolving in multiple places around the ‘same’ time. If that makes sense.

  2. thank you very much for this incredible website. I can learn a lot from this website.

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