Where Did Hominids Originate?

Scientific evidence indicates that hominids originated on the continent of Africa; the East African region is specifically indicated. Most hominid fossils, as well as the oldest ones, have been found throughout the African continent. This is one of the main reasons why it is theorized that modern humans developed in Africa.

The hominin family separated from the primates about 6-8 million ago. The word hominid refers to members of the human family, Hominidae : species directly related to the last common ancestor between humans and primates.

Humans and primates separated about 15-20 or 20-40 million years ago. Some primates that existed during that time can be considered hominids or relatives of humans.

Studies indicate that hominids could have migrated to the continents of Europe and Asia. Tracing the origin of modern humans is complicated as the evidence is not completely conclusive. However, the theory that humans originated in Africa and later spread throughout the world is the most accepted.

You may be interested in knowing better the context where these hominids arose. To do this, you can see stages of prehistory: Stone Age and Neolithic .

Origin of hominids

What is a hominid?

Hominids refer to the related primate family, including humans. These species include 4 genera and 7 living species: the gorilla, the orangutan, the chimpanzee, the bonobo, and the human.

This term has varied over the years, initially referring only to humans and their extinct close relatives. However, today hominid is used to refer to all great apes, including humans.

The first hominid specimens walked on two feet, which means that they were bipedal. Scientific consensus indicates that these creatures originated and evolved east of the African continent.

First data on the origin of hominids

The oldest hominin fossils have been found on the continent of Africa. Most hominids date to the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic Stone Age.

In the province of Gauteng, located near Johannesburg in South Africa, is the Cradle of Humankind. This pale anthropological site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical importance.

In this site, more than a third of the hominid fossils discovered have been found, in addition to the fact that the hominid fossils found in this place have been the oldest. Some specimens date from about 3.5 million years ago.

Some species of hominids

Sahelanthropus tchadensis 

This species was discovered in Chad, Central Africa in 2002. It is the oldest hominid species ever found, although it is not known whether it was bipedal. It is estimated that the fossils found date from about 6-7 million years ago; its skull was small and had small, canine teeth.

Very few specimens have been found, the most famous being that of a baptized Toumai boy. Its characteristics, as well as the fact that it comes from the period in which hominids diverged from chimpanzees, suggest that it was close to the common ancestor between humans and chimpanzees.

Australopithecus anamensis

The fossils of these hominids were found in Kenya and Ethiopia, on the African continent. These remains belong to the oldest hominid species to be found in the Turkana basin, a geographic site full of thousands of fossils located between Kenya and Ethiopia.

It existed about 3.9 million years ago; it had a mix of primitive features and more advanced body parts.

Ardipithecus ramidus

It was named after remains from 4.4 million years ago were found in Ethiopia. Studies carried out concluded that this hominid weighed about 50 kilos and measured approximately 120 centimeters. Its skull and brain were the size of a chimpanzee and it could walk on two legs.

Australopithecus afarensis 

These creatures existed from 3.9 to 3 million years ago. The most famous fossil found of this species was called Lucy. It is more related to the human species than to a primate.

Fossils have only been found in regions of East Africa. Lucy was found in the Hadar region of Ethiopia, however, Laetoli in Tanzania is generally associated with this species because of the numerous specimens that have been found there. Additionally, remains have been found in other regions of Ethiopia and in Kenya.

Although its skull was similar to that of a chimpanzee, its teeth were similar to those of humans. Their pelvis and leg bones have many things in common with those of modern humans.

He was biped and adapted well to walking, however running was not his strong suit. Physically they were very strong and their hands were also very similar to today’s humans.

Homo habilis

It existed between 2.4 and 1.5 million years ago and was very similar to the Australopithecus species. His face was still somewhat primitive, but the shape of his skull was very similar to that of a modern human. Studies have shown that he was fully capable of some kind of rudimentary speech.

He was found in Tanzania in the 1960s and was named that way because he was a “clever man.” Tools were found near the fossils, therefore scientists believe that this species was capable of using tools.

Homo erectus 

This species existed between 1.8 million years and 300,000 years ago. Their skeleton was more robust than that of humans; this implies great force.

Their body proportions vary as tall and slender specimens have been found, but others indicate that they were smaller and more compact. They used primitive tools and there is evidence that they cooked their food.

While species of Australopithecus and Homo habilis have been found only on the continent of Africa, species of Homo erectus have been discovered in other parts of the world. Asia, Europe and Africa have been the places where evidence of this species has been found.

Thanks to these discoveries, scientists assume that hominids originated in Africa, therefore humans were born on this continent. From homo erectus  or a direct ancestor of them, it migrated to other parts of the world.

Homo antecessor 

It is the oldest European hominid ever found; It was discovered in 1977 in Atapuerca, Spain.

Scientists claim that this species must be related to the first migratory series of hominids that left Africa and spread to Eurasia. Traces and fossils of Homo ancestor have also been found in England and France.

Homo sapiens sapiens

Anatomically modern humans developed about 200,000 years ago. The oldest homo sapiens remains date back 195 million years and were found in Omo, Ethiopia, in East Africa. These fossils are known as the Kibish men.


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