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Content created 101005, revised 120413
File last modified: 150913
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Homo erectus

Most Famous Specimens:
Peking Man, Java Man.
Location:
Much of Eurasia.
Most Famous Sites:
Zhoukoudian (China), Solo (Indonesia), Terra Amata (France), Olorgesailie Valley (Kenya).
Time Range:
1.8 mya - 200 tya.
Size:
Essentially like H. sapiens, although more robust than modern humans.
Cranial Capacity:
800-900 cc in early specimens, up to about 1100 cc in later specimens.
Cranial Features:
Chewing apparatus was less robust than that of earlier hominids, but more robust than ours. Face and cranium still have heavy bones, with pronounced brow ridges. Skull shape is ovoid —long and low, with sloped-back forehead. A distinctive characteristic is an angular occipital region (lower back part of skull).
Postcranial Features:
Smaller hole in vertebrae for spinal cord (possibly implying difference in nerve signal traffic through spine).
Habitats:
Widely varying, including very cold as well as warm environments.
Special Notes:
This species is generally believed to be the first hominid to have moved out of Africa into Eurasia, perhaps around 1 mya. The African specimens now generally classed as Homo ergaster were formerly included with Homo erectus.
Generally associated with Acheulean tools. Believed to be the first hominid to have discovered use of fire and to have engaged in active hunting as a serious subsistence activity, as opposed to scavenging meat killed by other animals. (More About Acheulean Tools)
It appears that H. erectus diet was more meat-based than plant-based. It has been persuasively argued that, since meat, if cooked, has more colories than plant matter, the dietary shift allowed H. erectus successful utilization of a wider range of environments (including caves) and an ability to travel longer distances, resulting in the wide distribution of this form. Research published in 2014 argues that climate instability may have inspired migrations associated with the need for water access, and may also account for the wide distribution.
The use of fire was first noticed at the original Peking Man site at Zhoukoudian (China), but some of the ash evidence was dismissed in a restudy in the late 1900s. In 2012 ash and burnt bone were identified in a South African cave under more rigorous excavation conditions, were dated to about 400,000 years ago, and were associated with Homo erectus. This is now our earliest evidence of human use of fire.
This group formerly included specimens now often differentiated as Homo ergaster. Some writers still prefer that analysis. The main difference is that ergaster specimens tend to be from Africa and to be earlier and more gracile, while erectus specimens tend to be Eurasian, later, and more robust.
Wikipedia link

photo

Cast of the Original Peking
Man Skull
(San Diego Museum of Man)


photo

Underside of Peking
Man Skull Cast
(San Diego Museum of Man)


photo

Waxwork Reconstruction of
Homo erectus
(San Diego Museum of Man)


photo

Waxwork Reconstruction of Peking Man
(San Diego Museum of Man)



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