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I am asking myself something very interesting for me (I am not expert in this topic).

I read many websites about human history and every website says that there are some periods in the human history.

For example: periods

  1. Paleolithic

  2. Mesolithic

  3. Neolithic

  4. Bronze Age

  5. Iron Age

    etc.

Generally it is estimated that humans evolved on Earth between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago.

I know we are homo sapiens, what I am trying to understand is what is the first step for humans. I read about Australopithecus and the "Australopithecus" evolution of the homo on the Earth. I know they are not considered human like us, but, where and when is the first step around the Earth in history where life for humans starts?

humans in the earth

homo homo info Hominidae

I am not expert in this topic I hope somebody could give me more information about this question.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to ES.SE. If you could try to make your second to last paragraph more readable/understandable, that would be great. $\endgroup$ – Erik Aug 30 '19 at 7:04
  • $\begingroup$ what part do you say? this part : I know we came from homo sapiens, while I try understand from is the first step of the humans ,I read about Australopithecus is the "Australopithecus" evolution of the homo in the earth, I know there are not consider human like us, but, where is the first step around the earth history where the live start? $\endgroup$ – simon Aug 30 '19 at 7:06
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that one. $\endgroup$ – Erik Aug 30 '19 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ We humans didn't just come from homo sapiens. We are homo sapiens. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Aug 30 '19 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ i mean we are homo sapiens $\endgroup$ – simon Aug 31 '19 at 4:21
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Forty years ago, protein electrophoresis and other molecular types of dating were pointing to a date of 4.5 million years BP for the separation of the hominid line from the pongid (great ape) line, but I didn't believe it at the time because it conflicted with the fossil evidence. Since then, more fossils have been found and the disparity between geological dating techniques and molecular analysis has become greater. We now have Ardipithecus kadabba, dated at 6 million years BP, and Sahelanthropus tchadensis at 7 million years BP. These were bipedal hominids which had already split off from the common ancestor of the pongid line which led to modern chimps and gorillas. These early hominids were australopithecine-type creatures, small brained and still essentially bipedal apes, but having many characteristics similar to humans.

Exactly when the australopithecines became brainy enough to be classed as humans is to some extent a value judgement and therefore not absolutely clear, but it is generally held that the first human was Homo habilis from Lake Turkana, Kenya, and lived about 3 million years ago. All the most important hominid fossils were found in Africa, mainly East Africa.

The Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods refer to the type of stone tools used by hominids at the relevant times. Palaeolithic tools were very primitive, and it usually takes an expert eye to identify them as tools rather than random fragments. They date from about the time of Homo habilis. It is entirely possible that some of these tools were made by Australopithecines. Mesolithic tools were a bit more sophisticated. and Neolithic tools were made comparatively recently by Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis. The bronze and iron ages belong to the last few thousand years. The Great Pyramid was built in the copper age, 4.5 thousand years ago, which preceded the bronze age. The 200,000 - 300,000-year dates you refer to are the approximate dates of the earliest Neanderthals and the migration of the first Homo sapiens from Africa into the Middle East and Asia. The first Neanderthals closely resembled the African version of Homo erectus,from which they evolved, so it takes an expert to decide which is which.

At the end of your question you seem to be asking when did life start. The generally accepted date is around 3.8 billion years ago, but it might have been very slightly earlier.

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    $\begingroup$ researchgate.net/publication/… $\endgroup$ – user12525 Aug 30 '19 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ There's a lot more I could have said, but I was giving an answer, not writing a book $\endgroup$ – Michael Walsby Aug 30 '19 at 10:30
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    $\begingroup$ As an aside, there is growing debate whether Homo habilis should be recast into the genus Australopithecus. The idea behind placing H. habilis in genus Homo was that toolmaking is what should separate Homo species from their non-Homo predecessors. That idea is falling by the wayside. As noted in the answer, that H. habilis was the first toolmaker may not be the case. Even worse, there are some extant monkey species that make tools just as good as those made by H. habilis. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Sep 1 '19 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ This should not be an accepted answer, it contains only unproven claims and several confusions, to be polite. First: hominids inlcude apes (see wikipedia), humans never split from them. Then comes some unrelated piffle that has nothing to do with the question. Most important fossils where not only found in Africa, but also Asia, the Levant and Europe, to paint the overall picture of human evolution. As to the periods, refer to my answer below, i can expand if necessary. The greates bunk is Neandertals in the Neolithic. They disappeared ~20,000y before before that. @gerrit $\endgroup$ – user18607 Jan 7 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ @ebv Maybe so, but I am not willing to use my moderator powers to delete an answer that is upvoted to +4, accepted, and for which I don't have the expertise to judge it on its content. This is something the community should handle without moderator intervention. The community can vote down the answer to -1, then 3 users with trusted user privilege (we have 30) can vote to delete it. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Jan 8 at 15:24
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The partition in stone - bronze - iron is an early 19th century thing invented to explain to pupils the findings in north-western Europe. It has little modern day relevance.

Paleolithic (European ! Africa has a different chronology and the below is not generally applicable !) is a hand wavy container expression for anything from the first signs of human presence in Europe ~1.7my up to and including the last glacial maximum (lgm), and mostly refers to the life and strife of humans in the cold steppe. It encompasses different human species and subspecies, and in itself is divided into lower-, middel- (starting ~250,000) and upper paleolithic (~45,000) following stratigraphic expressions that what is above is regarded as being younger than what is below.

On a high level, lower paleolithic (again: Europe !) is generally connected with the presence of Homo habilis and erectus and ante-neandertals (i am being a "lumper" here), the middle paleolithic is the time of the Neandertals (Homo sapiens neandertalensis), and the upper paleolithic deals with the likes of us, Homo sapiens sapiens. All these units have further subdivisions based on tool technology and -industry. As an example, the upper paleolithic is further subdivided in (old to young) Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean (around the lgm) and Magdalenian with their respective clearly distintctive stone and bone tool industries, and these have further local or regional expressions that deserve more detailed description.

With the onset of re-forestation human subsistance changes funtamentally. This is the time of the hunters and gatherers of the forests, the Mesolithic period in Europe, a relatively short period broadly taking place between ~9000 and 5500 BC. It lasts until and partly side by side with the incoming Neolitihic, the revolutionary (but not abrupt) change to farming, animal husbandry and settledness. The latter started over a few thousand years in Anatolia/Fertile Crescent/Levant between 11000 and 8000 BC (simplifying here for the sake of brevity).

Then it gets complicated. Metal (copper) has already been in use since in the Neolithic (see Chalcolithic), use of bronze starts in the middle east ~3200BC, and spreads north, arriving in central Europe around 2200BC. But it is not used everywhere (example: Egypt). Use of iron starts ~1200BC, arriving in central Europe ~800BC.

Please keep in mind that there are huge regional or local differences with their respective own chronologies, because human subsistance and so the use of tools has never been uniform.

Regarding humans: We can speak of "humans" and the genus Homo with the onset of tool making ~2.6My ago, Oldovan stone tool technology in East Africa, though in these times there is not always and generally a link between a human species and a certain stone tool industry. The case of human speciation is complicated, and got even more so with the use (ancient) genetics as a tool for analysis. Though the latter is still a developin science, it looks like there have always been multiple species or subspecies around until recently. Today there is only one human species remaining on earth, and it is unclear how long they'll make it.

Pls. let me suggest to search the Biology departement here (or elsewhere) for an up-to-data primer on human species and subspecies.

Ok, questions ? :-)

Edit: since the original question has been clarified, i'd like to add something. First, there is no such thing as a single step that defines what an anatomically modern human (amh) really is. Evolution does not jump ! It is a gradual process of speciation, of adaptation to a niche. It may take place in a limited geographical region if individuals don't move far or over a large aerea, even over continetal limits if individuals or groups move in an out. As that's what humans did, things aren't exactly simple and in constant flow.

Find places of early amhs show that they developed, just like other humans before, in Afrcia, but rather distributed than in a single spot. Jebel Irhoud is up to now the oldest specimen with traits of amh, for the splitters among us in the field between h. heidelbergensis, rhodesiensis, neandertalensis, sapiens ...

But there is maybe another thing to your question, which is called "behavioural modernity". People using personal adornement, creating art objects like figurines, paintings of scenes from real life or more abstract symbols on cave walls, carving and painting mussels, etc. For a long time this was attributed to amh in Europe alone, starting with the arrival of the first groups of modern humans ~45,000 years ago. But recently, this was questioned, with the findings of traces from Neandertal find sites hinting to abstract thinking much earlier, 65,000BC in Gibraltar (Gorham Cave) and 115,000 in southern Spain. So, from a cultural point of view, there is no real "unique feature" in favour of amh any more, the differences are floating, not "carved in stone" (haha).

This is all in flow and debated. There'll surely be more news on all this soon (tm).

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    $\begingroup$ amazing thank you $\endgroup$ – simon Dec 5 '19 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, i was asked what was there before the paleolithic and when starts human life. As has been said in the other answer, the first stone tools (Oldovan) are really crude stuff. Sloppy spoke, those guys grabbed a stone and another and danged them in a way to obtain an edge. Before, the ancestors of our ancestors had to get along without (recognizable) tools. The genus Homo starts with h. habilis. Before the humans lived the Australopithecines. $\endgroup$ – user18411 Dec 5 '19 at 18:02
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(tl, dr at the end, the answer by user user18411 is mine from a former life on this site)

Addressing @MichaelWalsby's answer that contains numerous false claims and severe misunderstandings and lacks citing:

Forty years ago, protein electrophoresis and other molecular types of dating were pointing to a date of 4.5 million years for the separation of the hominid line from the pongid (great ape) line

Firstly, humans never seperated from the hominid line. They are a part of it. The stricter term "hominin" comprises the human clade (visit Wikipedia). The mentioned work at that time 40 years ago must be cited in order to count as a proof. I have no idea what you mean.

We now have Ardipithecus kadabba, dated at 6 million years BP, and Sahelanthropus tchadensis at 7 million years BP. These were bipedal hominids which had already split off from the common ancestor of the pongid line which led to modern chimps and gorillas. These early hominids were australopithecine-type creatures, small brained and still essentially bipedal apes, but having many characteristics similar to humans.

The mentioned Ardipithecus kaddaba plays not really a role, given the sparse remains. Generally claiming bipedalism for them is nonsense, maybe "facultatively bidedal", but less than later hominins and it is debated because the only evidence (a toe bone) does not belong to the found specimen.

The Austrolopithecines are not a homogenuous clade as the post implies. They split into the graciles (e.g. Laetoli, here clear bipedalism but 2My after the Ardipithecus) and robust ones (e.g. Paranthropus), that actually follow the gracile ones in time by more than a million years. Gracilty and robustness (watch the dentition !) are a pretty strong hint to the life style, but that's another story.

Sahelanthropus tchadensis is depicted as being bipedal, which is incorrect. The evidence is far too weak to tell with certainty. But its role as a possible common ancestor of the humans and chimps should be mentioned !

... but it is generally held that the first human was Homo habilis from Lake Turkana, Kenya ...

That is misleading. When speaking of Homo habilis (I had a professor whose last name was Bolus. We dubbed him Homo hobolus :-)) we generally refer to Koobi Fora. Though it is Lake Turkana as well, we refer to "Turkana boy" as a nearly complete Homo erectus skeleton.

All the most important hominid fossils were found in Africa, mainly East Africa.

This is nonsense. Very important fossils come from Europe, e.g. Dmanisi, Atapuerca, Tautavel, Schöningen, Mauer, Steinheim, no Neandertals are known from Africa but hundreds from elsewhere today and there a huge number of Middle and Upper Paleolithic sites all over Europe and parts of Asia, enough for a chronology from Homo erectus all the way to today, that has not been done in that granularity in Africa yet. Important modern human sites are from south Africa, Morocco and the Levant, not from east Africa.

The Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods refer to the type of stone tools used by hominids at the relevant times. Palaeolithic tools were very primitive, and it usually takes an expert eye to identify them as tools rather than random fragments.

No. These expressions refer to a type of subsistence. Stone tools are used for finer classification. Pal. tools (middle and upper) were sophisticated to a degree that today only few (if at all) can replicate. Blade production in the upper pal. guarantees a high degree of standardization and reproducibility. Consider insets for composite tools like spears, if one breaks out it can easly be replaced, and much more. A tool is defined by its form, not by its use. But that leads too far, ask if you need more. But please be specific, like a time and a region, or else you send me away for days ...

They date from about the time of Homo habilis

Nonsense. They date from a time from 2.6My to the Upper-, End-, Epipaleothic (~10,000BP), whichever is encountered in an area. No industry is connected to Homo habilis because there is no clear association. But there are associations with Homo erectus (e.g. Acheulien), Neandertals (e.g. Mousterien, Micoquien, Levallois-technique, Chatelperronien, ...) and modern humans (uncounted, see answer below for a selection).

It is entirely possible that some of these tools were made by Australopithecines.

There is no such (undebated) evidence, to date. But i will not apodictically exclude it for the future.

and Neolithic tools were made comparatively recently by Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis.

This deserves the term post factual piffle. The Neandertals were gone since more than 20,000 years when the Neolithic started. You, sir, have clearly no idea what a Neandertal or the Neolithic is ! Neandertal extinction happened around 40kyBP (some say 30), Neolithic emerged around 10,000BP.

The Great Pyramid was built in the copper age

Copper age is not an archeological term. We say Chalcolithic for a fully developed Neolithic with the use of copper. Those where the people who built the pyramids.

which preceded the bronze age

It did not. While bronze was in use in the Levant, Aegean, little Asia, Egypt stayed with copper (apart from isolated finds) until ~1600BC. That's not far from the introduction of iron. Call me for proof.

The 200,000 - 300,000-year dates you refer to are the approximate dates of the earliest Neanderthals and the migration of the first Homo sapiens from Africa into the Middle East and Asia

Piffle. Just see Dmanisi, Tautavel, Atapuerca. But >300,000 is the time when the first anatomically modern humans might have roamed parts of Africa (see the other answer for find sites).

tl, dr and to answer the question: First humans that undebatedly produced stone tools emerge ~2.6My ago. Those where unspecified erectusses if you don't split too much (i don't). The stone tool industry is called Olduvan or Oldovan (Wikipedia has Oldowan is see, it's Olduvai gorge that gave the name). The first anatomically modern humans arose ~300,000 to 350,000 BP. Oldest find sites in the other answer. An exact location cannot be named, for now, but Africa it was.

Before humans lived other hominid species who did not leave clear remains and traces of tool use behind. Note that tool use may have different definitions. For human tools use, it is not just grabbing a thing from the environment and dang it. A tool must show a cognitive process, a plan of shaping it into a form, and it is the form that defines a tool, not the use.

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