The first hominid to be associated with
manufactured tools lived in Africa about 2.4 to
1.5 million years ago.
This is the earliest known Homo
species to show distinct differences from both
apes and australopithecines. The
face is still primitive and projecting, but the
jaw is pulled under the brain, with smaller
molars (though still much larger than in modern
humans), and the skull is thinner than that of
the chimpanzee, with a distinctive rounded shape,
vertical sides and a small forehead above the
brows. The average Homo habilis
brain was considerably larger than the average Australopithecus
brain (about 610 cubic centimeters on average),
and the bulge of Broca's area, essential for
speech indicates that it may have been capable of
rudimentary speech. Homo habilis was
capable of walking upright, but may have also
spent a considerable amount of time in the trees.
The average Homo habilis individual
probably stood about five feet tall and weighed
about 100 pounds.
Homo habilis is
associated with the Oldowan tool industry, which
is characterized by crude stone flakes, rounded
hammer stones, and bones used for digging. Though
odd stones or pieces of bone may have been used
as weapons or scrapers much earlier, Homo
habilis appears to have been the first to
actually make its tools, rather than simply use
what was available.
Homo habilis lived
in a predominantly grassland environment. The
climate was becoming cooler and drier, and this
may have been the impetus for new feeding
strategies that included scavenging and tool use.
Chemical analysis suggests that this species was
mainly vegetarian but did include some meat in
their diet. Most of its meat was probably
scavenged from carnivore meals, however.
study of Homo habilis began in 1959,
when two teeth were unearthed at Olduvai Gorge in
Tanzania by a team led by Louis and
Mary Leakey. Parts of a boy's skeleton were
located at the site the next year and additional
fossils from other individuals continued to be
found. They were officially announced as new
species in 1964, but their placement into the
human genus Homo has been controversial
ever since. Additional fossils, including the
discovery of a skull in 1973 and a partial
skeleton in 1986, have revealed that this species
was more ape-like than previously believed.
Most of the specimens originally named Homo
habilis have now been split into two groups.
One group retains the name Homo habilis,
although some scientists prefer the name
Australopithecus habilis because these
individuals have physical similarities with the
australopithecines. The other group consists of
fossils with larger brains and larger teeth.
These individuals are now placed in a different
species, but there is debate as to whether they
should be named Homo rudolfensis,
Australopithecus rudolfensis or Kenyanthropus
Australian Museun http://australianmuseum.net.au/Homo-habilis/
Bradshaw Foundation http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/origins/homo_habilis.php
Handprint: Ancestral Lines
Institute of Human Origins http://www.becominghuman.org/node/homo-habilis-essay
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