I. Prehistoric Times > D. Homo Erectus and the First Peopling of the World (1.8 Million to 250,000 Years Ago)
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
D. Homo Erectus and the First Peopling of the World (1.8 Million to 250,000 Years Ago)
 
By 1.8 million years ago, new, anatomically more advanced humans had evolved from earlier hominids in tropical Africa. These were the first of two waves of humans to move out of Africa and settle in other parts of the Old World. The second wave, modern humans, followed.  1
 
1. Homo Erectus
 
In the 1890s, Dutch physician Eugene Dubois discovered the remains of a primitive-looking human in the gravels of the Solo River in Java. He claimed that the bones were those of the so-called missing link between apes and humans. His claims were greeted with skepticism. It was not until the discovery of closely similar fossils in northern China in the 1920s that Dubois was vindicated. The Chinese and Javanese fossils are grouped under a general human form named Homo erectus.  2
Today, Homo erectus is known to have lived over a wide area of the Old World. The fossils from Zhoukoudian Cave in northern China provide a portrait of a very variable human form. These hominids had a brain capacity between 775 and 1,300 cc, showing much variation. Their vision was excellent, and they were probably capable of extensive thought. Their skulls were more rounded than those of earlier hominids, with conspicuous brow ridges and a sloping forehead. The jaw was massive. Limbs and hips were fully adapted to an upright posture but more robust than those of modern humans.  3
Homo erectus stood about 5 feet 6 inches tall and had hands fully capable of precision gripping and many kinds of toolmaking. Although we cannot be sure, it seems possible that Homo erectus had lost the dense hair covering characteristic of nonhuman primates. Homo erectus also had abundant sweat glands, and presumably, in common with most tropical primates and humans, relatively dark skin. These humans were certainly capable of a far more complex and varied life than their predecessors.  4
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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