An Evolutionary Fork: Fossil Record Evidence of Humanity and Its Variation From the Primate
The early history of humans (homo-sapiens) is a contentious and heavily debated subject in the scientific community. Exactly when and from which ancestry our species evolved is a topic of speculation that many disagree on. What most in the scientific community can almost unanimously agree on is that homo-sapiens did indeed evolve from lesser beings. There is no shortage of fossil record indicating evolution as a force in this world’s early progression. The real debate begins with when humans arrived in the fossil record themselves. The function of this essay will be to first designate which ...view middle of the document...
Which characteristics define humans as homo-sapiens and are the specifics to look for and use in differentiating the fossil records of primates versus early hominids is really a matter of scientific opinion and not definable fact. There are many differences between modern humans and modern primates such as Chimpanzees, human’s closest animal relative sharing approximately 99% of common DNA. Humans use language for example, Chimpanzees do not. Humans have complex art and music while Chimps do not engage in such activities. Unfortunately, these characteristics are not visible in fossil records and one must therefore isolate the physical characteristics that differentiate the two species in order to locate them in fossil records. Schultz states later in that same article:
Man became distinguished (from primates) chiefly in connection with his three outstanding specializations: the early and undoubtedly rapid acquisition of the erect posture, the later, gradual and ultimately great increase in relative brain-size, and the comparatively very recent prolongation of his main periods of life. (Schultz 1950, 428)
While the prolongation of life is something that can be found in fossil records, that is so recent a characterization of humans it seems prudent to instead focus on two other physical characteristics of homo-sapiens that separate them from primates: the shift of the large toe from the side of the foot for use in grasping to the front of the foot for use in balance in bi-pedal movement, and the shift in dental formation. Primates have an elongated canine and a longer narrower dental and jaw structure used for attacking and gnashing while homo-sapiens have a more oval and rounded canine and more rounded jaw structure. These two characteristics along with erect posture and an enlarged braincase (which includes the more vertical fore-head development rather than the more sloped forehead observed in modern primates) will serve as the definition of humanity in fossil records for the purposes of this essay.
These characteristics are important, as primates do not walk erect and are therefore not bi-peds, instead using all four limbs in walking, also known as knuckle walking. This leads directly into why the position of the toe is significant. The location of that digit, along with the length of the other digits on the hands and feet, indicate their intended purpose. The longer digits with the thumb and large toe pushed to the side of the foot show a propensity for grasping and hanging in trees. Humans no longer use their feet for grasping and instead are confined to the ground and upright walking. To take it a step further, the elongated pelvic region of primates makes upright walking difficult and necessitates the back-and-forth rocking seen in primates when they attempt to walk upright. The longer pelvis aids in quadrupedalism. All these features show a clear and concise differentiation of primates and humans.
Now that a...