Homo Erectus, one million years before Adam and Eve

Kurt Bengtson
, studied Archaeology at Stockholm University (1988)

A million years ago the dominant hominid species were Homo Erectus (Homo Ergaster in Africa). It is probably the hominid species with the longest lifespan. From its first appearance 1,8 mya until about 140.000 years ago when a small population still existed in and around Java. It was the first human to wander outside the African continent. It was the first human to learn how to control fire. They were also the first true human hunters. Their predecessor, Homo Habilis, used tools but did not really hunt; it scavenged recently dead prey with sharp tools and took meat and hides. But they never used spears while Homo Erectus did.

So, one milion years ago, Homo Erectus was a typical hunter-gatherer. He was still not as tall as later relatives would be, between 1,45 and 1,85 m. A typical male perhaps 1, 60–1,70 m in general and a female 1,50–1,60 m. His weight between 40 kg and 75. They had developed fire and used it for many purposes. Cooking fires are seen in the archaeological finds from approximately 1,4 mya. Fire was also a protection from bigger predators and could be used as a help in hunting (if they actually used fire for hunting purposes is very difficult to prove but there certainly is a possibility). Their bigger bodies (than Habilis) needed more food to sustain them and give them energy. Given their stature they were probably effective runners with a good stamina. They could not run as fast as their prey but they could run for a longer time than their prey. This kind of hunting demands social communication to be really effective. Some reconstruction of their skulls suggest that the area where social communication is lodged in the brain were developed and they probably used both signs and speech to communicate.

There is also proof that they took care of each other. Elderly individuals have been found, one whose teeth had fallen out long before he died. He had to have help to survive and the community he lived in gave it to him. Though they took care of their tribe members there is no evidence of burials. That is not to say that they did not do it, only that we can’t prove that they did.

Erectus’ spreading pattern around the globe suggest that he was not adjusted for a colder climate. Proof of clothing is absent and he keeps himself to Africa, southern Asia and possibly southern Spain. The first proof of clothing we have come from his relative Homo Heidelbergensis (about 0,7 mya) which did move further north (Germany).

Below is a possible reconstruction of a campsite. They used caves or overhangs but could do without too. Fire was a powerful protector.

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