Becoming Human Essay

In watching “Becoming Human”, anthropologists, archaeologists, and many other scientists and researchers present us with bountiful evidence that humankind evolved from one common ancestor, that being the “Homo-Erectus.” This species was said to have roamed the plains of Africa freely around 1.3 million years ago, and then spread north, eastward and westward in the centuries and thousands of years that followed. This theory is supported by the findings of the fossils and skeletons of the “Homo-Heidelbergensis”, which were discovered in Atapuerca, which is located in northern Spain. 

These remains were believed to be aged somewhere between 200,000 to 500,000 years ago. A railway system was built through the region around 100 years ago, and it cut through the steep hillside of the region. In later years, archeologists stumbled across almost one million years of evidence of human habitation, including the oldest ever human remains found on record in Europe. Nearby archaeologists and scientists also discovered caves, which lead to the discovery of the first known mass burial site. This alongside the discovery of “Excalibur” ( a pink quartz axe) led scientists to believe that the Homo-Heidelbergensis were among one of the first civilizations to recognize and see the importance of symbolism, and honoring the dead. 

Other evidence presented in this documentary includes the mass extinctions of large land mammals in India, Australia and in Africa, mostly due to the diets of these species consisting of mainly meat, and not relying on plant protein or berries. Another piece of evidence to support this theory is the discovery of a jaw bone of a young boy, aged at over 100,000 years old. This and the study of skulls found nearby tell us that modern humans and neanderthals had similar brain makeups, including a frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal lobe. Thus hinting that our genetics and brain structures might not have been so different.

The research and evidence this documentary presents has led me to agree with their statements and claims, suggesting that we are all descendents of one common ancestor, that being “Homo-Erectus.” I presume that the evidence presented and the facts displayed show more than enough information to prove that we are a direct descendent of the Homo Erectus. The evidence in skeletal and brain structure stuck out as the most compelling piece of information. When the information about the internal skeletal scans was presented in the documentary, that was the moment I agreed with this theory. What the scans had stated was that the skull shape/brain structure (even though the skull of the Homo Erectus was significantly more flat) was almost identical in texture and in shape. The Homo Erectus showed similar brain structure, and skeletal characteristics that could be traced to modern humans today. 

Another piece of evidence that was presented in the documentary was the similarities of social structure and family systems. Modern humans have a strong social structure and family system, which include hanging out with friends or colleagues, to sitting down at the family table for dinner. Fossils, tools and skeletal remains found in close proximity of each other showed archaeologists that the Homo Erectus was the first species to have a sort of social structure, and have a strong family system. This family system included the mother often caring for the child or foraging, while the father was presumably out hunting to provide food/warmth for the family. 

The features of H. erectus seem more human than those of earlier members of the human family. His brain capacity, for example, was 70 cubic inches (1150 cubic cm), and he appears to have had vocal chords, giving him the ability to speak. H. erectus lived a relatively long life as well. He also may have learned varied techniques for survival. H. erectus also developed advanced tools like knives, choppers, scrapers, and cleavers, all of which helped him hunt large animals and prepare them to be consumed as food. (Davis, Page, 2017)

It is believed that Homo Erectus left Africa almost 2 million years ago, and populated most of prehistoric western Europe and as far east as China and Australia. Evidence presented such as similar skull fossils, weapons and tools, and significant animal extinctions all support that the Homo Erectus spread from Central Africa to almost all of Europe and Asia. Settling in these different areas and climates made each species unique, and able to adapt quickly to their surroundings. One of the questions that was presented referred to the mass exodus of the Homo Erectus from Africa, and why it occurred. Humans have a tendency to squeeze all of the resources they can out of their environment, usually depleting resources until they are almost nonexistent. It is rumoured that this was the cause of the exodus from Africa, as it was a search for more resources and materials. 

Our evolution into modern humans as we know today had to do with climate change, and weather conditions in the chosen settlement surroundings. Homo Erectus was believed to have been covered in a layer of fur, but gradually the fur would fall out because of the extreme heat and the fact that they were a hunter gatherer society. This often meant running after prey and chasing it until it was caught and eventually killed. The loss of fur allowed the species to sweat, and run longer distances without getting winded, thus being effective in hunting and finding food. This also helped Homo Erectus adapt to the drastic climate change from Central Africa.