Human Evolution: Overview


The fossil evidence for human evolution can be traced from close to 4.5 Ma to the present. The new term for modern humans and the human clade is ‘hominin’, which replaces the older name ‘hominid’.

Keywords: australopithecines; homo; neanderthals; africa; human origins

Figure 1.

This diagram shows the approximate temporal ranges of the main hominid taxa. It assumes that modern humans and the chimpanzees shared a common ancestor; one interpretation of the taxonomy of Pan is given in the right‐hand box. The unnamed taxa, marked with a question mark, are based on the informed speculation that there is likely to be as much variety in the early phase of hominid evolution as there is between 3 and 1.5 Ma. Bold dashed lines represent likely evolutionary relationships; dotted lines are even more speculative statements about ancestor–descendant relationships. The left‐hand box shows one interpretation of the taxonomy of later Homo.


Further Reading

Howells WW (1997) Getting Here: The Story of Human Evolution, 2nd edn. Washington, DC: The Compass Press.

Jones S, Martin R and Pilbeam D (eds) (1992) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Klein RG (1999) The Human Career: Human Biological and Cultural Origins, 2nd edn. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.

Tattersall I (1995) The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wood BA and Collard MC (1999) The Human Genus. Science 284: 65–71.

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Wood, Bernard A(Apr 2001) Human Evolution: Overview. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001573]