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 webiste 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


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

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?

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.

  • $\begingroup$ 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 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 at 7:06
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that one. $\endgroup$ – Erik Aug 30 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ We humans didn't just come from homo sapiens. We are homo sapiens. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Aug 30 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ i mean we are homo sapiens $\endgroup$ – simon Aug 31 at 4:21

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.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer. The only think I doubt is Nenaderthal was extincted when Nelothic offiacially started. But Neanderthal tools were very complex tools (I have seen in some documentals their tools were better than Homo Sapiens ones in close combact with prey). You forgot to name Heidelbergensis as major hominid line before Neanderthal. I excavated at a cave placed on North Spain, Basque Country and we got some nice tools from Heidelbergensis, including art type (decoration tools). $\endgroup$ – user12525 Aug 30 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ researchgate.net/publication/… $\endgroup$ – user12525 Aug 30 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 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ To be fair modern genetic studies has pushed the molecular date farther back between 7-10mya, The disparity is smaller than ever, not greater. $\endgroup$ – John Aug 30 at 14:10
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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 at 13:43

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 ? :-)

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    $\begingroup$ amazing thank you $\endgroup$ – simon 5 hours ago
  • $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ – ebv 4 hours ago

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