16,500,000 years ago, Africa became arider as fluctuations in the climate caused a majority of the woodland environments to be replaced by open savannas. As a result, the ancestors of the Hominidae family, the greater apes, underwent speciation from the Hylobatidae family, the lesser apes, as the Hominoidea superfamily separated out into different species of hominids and gibbons.
16,000,000 years ago, hominids were beginning to use more and more elaborate systems of communication, although complex language did not yet exist. As time went on, they produced an array of sounds through the use of vocal organs as well as by way of chest-thumping, ground-slapping, and tree-drumming. Facial expressions, like teeth-baring, along with body postures also played an important role in this.
15,000,000 years ago, drier, more seasonal woodlands spread in eastern Africa so the distribution of fruits became less spatially and temporally abundant. As a consequence of this, leaves became the common dietary staple of the hominid populations that lived a million generations ago.
14,000,000 years ago, more and more primates in the Hominidae family began to leave the treetops and live on the ground, and they exhibited a greater range of sizes than that of modern apes. However, less hospitable cooler conditions in the Northern Hemisphere eventually caused many species to die out, although some hominids survived by migrating south.
13,500,000 years ago, Hominidae populations migrated to Southern Asia where the hominines eventually speciated from the ancestors of the orangutan. The Homininae comprised all of the extinct and extant species that arose after the split from Ponginae.
12,000,000 years ago, the diversity of hominids and hominines declined as the tropical and subtropical habitats of Europe and Asia began to contract and become concentrated closer to the equator as a result of tectonic forces.
10,500,000 years ago, as the hominines gave rise to hominins the descendants of the early apes diverged into two lineages, the gorillas and the line that would lead to humans and chimpanzees. Then, when the East African Rift Valley formed, life evolved separately on each side.
9,500,000 years ago, life was much harder for the hominids, hominines, and hominins that clung to the remaining trees of the open savanna. Eventually, the apes adapted to living in a range of habitats, including forests, open-canopy woodlands, and savannas.
8,000,000 years ago, it became increasingly difficult for hominids, hominines, and hominins to survive through arboreal means. Hominoids became extinct in Europe and their populations and distribution were significantly reduced in Asia because climatic disruptions in the middle latitudes made these habitats unsuitable.
6,000,000 years ago, Orrorin tugenensis was an early species of Homininae, having descended from Sahelanthropus tchadensis. In time, these hominines adapted through hundreds of generations of physiological changes, as their front legs became useful as arms with which to forage.
5,700,000 years ago, hominans speciated from the ancestors of chimpanzees when a telomere-telomere fusion of ancestral ape chromosomes gave rise to a specific mutation in our lineage. Then, scattered clans of evolving apes were forced to endure the harsh conditions of the savanna.
5,600,000 years ago, Ardipithecus kadabba lived in and around Ethiopia, with a body and brain size similar to that of extant chimpanzees. The Miocene hominans were bipedal apes that had canines resembling those found in later species but that still projected beyond the tooth row, reflective of inherent aggression.
4,800,000 years ago, a reduction of the canines in certain ape species related to an increase in social cooperation and an accompanying decrease in the need for males to make aggressive displays.
4,600,000 years ago, the nervous systems of select apes were becoming reorganized to operate in more coordinated ways. This triggered what would become a crucial growth of the brain, which enabled the ancient apes to use hunks of rock and wood to crack open nuts or dig for tubers, although they didn’t shape these tools in any systematic way.
4,400,000 years ago, as a Plesticene hominan, Ardipithecus ramidus had a relatively small brain, measuring about 325 cm³. The species was arboreal but capable of bipedal locomotion as evidenced by its bowl-shaped pelvis, the angle of its foramen magnum, and its thinner wrist bones. Although its feet were still adapted for grasping rather than walking for long distances.
4,200,000 years ago, the Australopithecus genus appeared. Australopithecus anamensis lived in northeastern Africa as the predecessor of Australopithecus afarensis. They displayed a high degree of sexual dimorphism with males being about 50% larger than females.
3,900,000 years ago, Australopithecus afarensis had reduced canines and molars. A. afarensis also had a relatively small brain size of 400 cm³ and a prognathic face. They stood about 1.2 meters tall and likely increased their diet to include meat from scavenging opportunities.
3,600,000 years ago, australopithecines had shorter and less divergent toes. So, their arched feet worked as rigid levers for pushing off the ground during each step. Their spines had an S-shaped curve, which shortened the overall length of their torsos and gave them rigidity and balance when standing.
3,350,000 years ago, australopithecines exhibited a more human-like cranium which permitted a larger brain compared to their body size, along with more human-like facial features. Their brain was only slightly less than half of ours. With no sharp teeth or claws, this species had to use group displays as a scare tactic.
3,150,000 years ago, australopithecines began to explore new territory. Once they found a place they liked, australopithecines would take control of a large area. As a result, troops often engaged in fierce territorial disputes. So, in addition to being at the mercy of predators, australopithecines were also constantly on guard against their rivals.
2,900,000 years ago, the Paranthropus genus emerged, being morphologically distinct from Australopithecus, having highly specialized features based on their regionally limited diet. As incredibly robust hominans, the members of this group represented a unique development within the overall hominid family.
2,580,000 years ago, Australopithecus africanus was slender and significantly more like modern humans than Au. afarensis, with a more human-like cranium permitting a larger brain and more humanoid facial features. They had a brain capacity of about 450 cm³. Au. africanus females even underwent an evolutionary adaptation to better bear lumbar load during pregnancy.
2,450,000 years ago, having descended directly from Australopithecus afarensis, the cranial capacity of Australopithecus garhi measured out to about 450 cm³. Still, those particular Pliocene hominans were able to make and use primitive Olduwan technologies, like the hammer and anvil, to aid in the acquisition of previously inaccessible fatty foods such as brain tissue and bone marrow.
2,440,000, in South Africa, other populations of Australopithecus aferensis started down a different path that would eventually give rise to Australopithecus africanus. In time, this species would produce Australopithecus sediba, which would inevitably go on to evolve into Homo gautengensis.
2,425,000 years ago, the summers began to get cooler, year by year, as the continents came closer and closer to their present positions. The climate was characterized by repeated glacial cycles which gradually led to several major extinctions and radical adaptations. For instance, the loss of body hair began to take place.
2,400,000 years ago, even though the South African lineage of hominans was going extinct, the East African line would remain extant, yet the evolutions both followed a strikingly similar pattern. In either case, there was a highly specialized Paranthrop that diverged from an Australopith that then gave rise to a highly adaptable member of the Homo genus, starting with the habilines in our ancestry.
2,350,000 years ago, Homo habilis stood no more than 1.3 meters tall, with disproportionately long arms compared to modern humans, and they had a less protruding face than the australopithecines. H. habilis’s brain capacity was 500 cm³. This meant that, H. habilis was a staple in the diet of large predatory animals such as Dinofelis, a large scimitar-toothed cat.
2,250,000 years ago, as testosterone levels continued to increase, this increased the strength and massiveness of the muscles of posture which further stimulated and reinforced habitual upright walking. The increase in testosterone also reduced the effects of estrogen on genital display, while, at the same time, increasing the growth of breasts. Thus, the signal for female sexual maturity switched from genital display to breast display.
2,100,000 years ago, Homo habilis and other species of ancient humans lived alongside ever diminishing populations of Australopithecus and Paranthropus species. In addition to this, the formation of the Congo River ultimately led to the speciation of the bonobo from the chimpanzee. This matriarchal species developed less prominent brow ridges, a black face with pink lips, small ears, wide nostrils, a slim upper body, narrow shoulders, a thin neck, and long legs compared to their closest relative.
2,000,000 years ago, Homo habilis had more modern-looking hands and feet which enabled them with greater dexterity. As a result, the ability to throw overhand served as an impetus for lateral refinements in the brain. All of these morphological changes made the hominans more proficient than other animals, so H. habilis was able to travel north and thrive, unlike the primates that lacked the brainpower and physical dexterity to exist in colder climates. Meanwhile, the Australopithecus genus went extinct.
1,950,000 years ago, Homo habilis had a brain volume of 600 cm³. At this point, the hominan brain had become large enough to allow for the development of highly complex social skills in conjunction with consistently noticeable whites in their eyes. This allowed them to convey a rich depth of meaning with nothing more than a glance. In addition to this, Homo habilis had fully mastered the Olduwan era tool case which included, but was not limited to, heavy pounding stones, large axes with a chopping-edge, and small flakes that could be used to scrape and slice.
1,900,000 years ago, Homo erectus gained the ability to walk extremely long distances because a ligament in the organism’s neck steadied their head and eyes. Additionally, elastic tendons worked like springs, and strong buttocks stabilized their torso when leaning forward into a stride. They could also travel further distances because the species possessed an incredibly efficient sweating system. As a result, they would sweat far more and pant far less.
1,825,000 years ago, Homo erectus stood about 1.8 meters and were more robust than modern humans, with a cranial capacity of 850 cm³. The species had a low and rounded braincase that was elongated from front to back, a prominent brow ridge, and an adult cranial capacity that was an average of twice that of the australopithecines.
1,800,000 years ago, Homo erectus evolved new facial musculature. This allowed for increased complexity of both the components of vocalization, including specific sounds, as well as the volume, pitch, tone, and emphasis of their calls. In this way, they became the first early human to fit squarely into the category of a hunter and predator and not as prey for larger animals.
1,775,000 years ago, the gender differentiation of male and female anatomy, as well as the specialization of gender tasks began to emerge. Since females had broader hips for child-bearing, women tended to spend more time attending to the tasks associated with the hearth. In contrast to this, males remained narrow hipped and roamed about as the hunters and defenders of the family.
1,650,000 years ago, many different types of hominans indulged in an array of prehistoric gene swapping. For all of their similarities, these divergent human species each had very different lifestyles. Some ate termites rather than the meat of animals and therefore were not in direct competition with each other. However, feuds and even bouts of cannibalism were not altogether uncommon amongst select populations.
1,500,000 years ago, Homo erectus tamed the flames caused by wildfires. As part of this, they put together a system of tending to the fire at night and subsequently carrying it through the day as they migrated. This gave rise to one of the first forms of ceremonial ritual, along with the religious reverence for an elemental force in nature. Fast calories from cooked food triggered a massive growth spurt, so they grew up to 2 full meters in height, and the reduced need for digestion allowed their intestines and rib cage to shrink.
1,450,000 years ago, the Acheulean Stone Age was well underway. All the while, the geographic distribution of Acheulian tools, and the people who made them was the result of climatic and ecological factors, such as glaciations and desertification. The earliest Acheulean assemblages contain numerous Olduwan-style flakes and core forms. In general, Acheulean tools were used for a variety of tasks including hacking wood from trees, digging up roots and tubers, butchering carcasses, and scraping hides.
1,440,000 years ago, H. habilis and H. erectus continued to live alongside the ever-diminishing populations of australopithecines. In addition to this, H. erectus also traveled thousands of miles into Europe and Asia over the course of several millennia, although they were limited to the lower and middle latitudes, even during interglaciations.
1,425,000 years ago, the distinctive oval and pear-shaped hand-axes of the Acheulean tradition attained such a high level of sophistication that the inventions became one of the earliest forms of art and economy in the world. They provided one of the earliest examples of an aesthetic sensibility in human prehistory.
1,000,000 years ago, as part of a very early migration of ancient humans out of Africa, Homo erectus had walked into and across Asia. There they came in contact with the largest apes to ever walk the Earth. Gigantopithecines were almost 2.7 meters in height, with a weight of up to 270 kg, which must have been utterly terrifying. The beast would have been absolutely massive compared to any prehistoric person.
900,000 years ago, Homo erectus observed stegodont herds swimming out to different islands, from the mainland of Southeast Asia. So, they fashioned together rudimentary bamboo rafts, using the stone hand axes they inherited from their ancestors. Then, they daringly ventured out, to the Indonesian island of Flores. There, the isolated Stone Age humans and stegodonts both gradually underwent insular dwarfism.
804,000 years ago, our ancestors split off from what would later become the Denisovans and Neanderthals.
650,000 years ago, environmental conditions in Africa allowed a variety of animals to become much larger than they are today. As such, one species of Pleistocene hominan, Homo heidelbergensis, grew in excess of 2 meters. This was nature’s attempt to push the envelope of human body size, so the species used up twice the amount of energy than that of a modern human.
640,000 years ago, Homo neanderthalensis split from Homo denisova, thereby giving rise to the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.
600,000 years ago, Homo heidelbergensis significantly contributed to a more sophisticated tool-making approach so there was a distinct transition in the artifacts made in Africa before and after this period, with the older group being thicker and less symmetric and the more recent being significantly streamlined.
400,000 years ago, the hominan brain stopped its slow trend toward increased size although at least one species did eventually acquire the wherewithal to openly communicate verbally. However, the degree to which the base of the skull was angled was not adequate enough for the larynx to move up and down, so the full command of articulate speech was still not possible.
350,000 years ago, the larynx and hyoid bone were sufficiently developed enough to allow humans to speak with a fully modern voice. As people began to live in bigger social groups and engage in large-scale coordinated hunting, their minds could no longer cope with the demands of life solely on the basis of their perceptual senses and limited cognitive abilities. As a result, a new level of linguistic intelligence emerged in the cerebral cortex.
340,000 years ago, social status continued to play an important role in the organization of kinship. By naming individuals and relationships, it became possible to articulate the rules of social interactions between one another. This made it easier to distinguish among close kin and individuals in other lineages.
325,000 years ago, the foundation for the modern nuclear family set about the gradual decline of communal living amongst the here-to-fore tribal people of that era. No longer would four or five families live together in bands.
300,000 years ago, Neanderthals had an enormous cranial capacity of 1,900 cm³. They were part of a separate Eurasian human lineage, which evolved in isolation and which shared a common ancestor with Homo sapiens in the Middle Pleistocene. In addition to this, Homo rhodesiensis lived throughout much of Africa. This hominan had a moderate cranial capacity of 1,100 cm³. It had a broad face, with a large nose, similar to Homo neanderthalensis.
250,000 years ago, the Mousterian tradition became a style of predominantly flint tools associated primarily with Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo sapiens in Northern Africa and the Near East, dating to the middle part of the Old Stone Age. This consisted mainly of hand-axes, racloirs, and points.
230,000 years ago, Neanderthals adapted to cold climates, having short limbs to conserve heat and broad noses to cool them down to prevent them from making any sweat that would then freeze. As a result, the harsh climate changed their outlook on life.
200,000 years ago, anatomically modern Homo sapiens emerged for the first time in prehistory. They lived along the Omo River in Ethiopia.
150,000 years ago, the most recent female ancestor common to all mitochondrial lineages of extant humans lived in East Africa, about ten thousand generations ago.
142,000 years ago, the most recent common ancestor from whom all male human Y chromosomes are descended lived in East Africa.
100,000 years ago, in the limited food environment on Flores, H. erectus had evolved a smaller body size becoming H. floresiensis. It had a remarkably small brain with a volume of 380 cm³. Nonetheless, the size of their dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with higher cognition, was about the same size as that of modern humans.
90,000 years ago, coastal hominans lived in caves near the water in Africa, so they didn’t have to hunt or scavenge. All they had to do was fish, and the abundance of omega-three fatty acids made it easier for signals to jump the gap between neurons in their brains. This made them much more contemplative creatures.
85,000 years ago, reverence of the impressive activities of nature progressed into full-blown animism, and the first shamans learned how to enter trances and use herbs to cure people or bring about divine visions. Those indigenous Africans were the first people to be regarded as having access to, and influence in, the domain of the supernatural. So, they became special helpers of the community, using their newly acquired talent to perform magic.
78,000 years ago, adornments quickly became very fashionable. This took the form of culturally unique clothing, jewelry, and many other forms of personal expression, like tattooing and scarification. Through transitional rites of passage, each major change in life was incorporated into the domain of the sacred. This development of more and more memes led to specific dialects, distinctive clothing and body markings, and tribally divergent social structures.
73,000 years ago, one of the Earth’s largest eruptions occurred in Indonesia at Mount Toba. The change in temperature created a bottleneck in the population of Homo sapiens. Meanwhile, nearby hominan populations, such as Homo erectus soloensis in Java and Homo floresiensis in Flores survived because they were upwind of Toba.
60,000 years ago, in search of better sources of food, Homo sapiens traveled east until they reached the Pacific Ocean, and the mitochondrial haplogroups M and N appeared as people participated in the migration out of Africa, interbreeding with the Neanderthals and other people they encountered along the way.
55,000 years ago, the frequent use of animal hides as clothing allowed head lice to evolve into body lice once people spread out into cooler regions. Hominans were also becoming more and more consumed with spirituality and religiosity. This led to elaborate theatrical portrayals in which people dressed as, and mimicked, the animals that they wished to coexist with or have dominion over.
54,000 years ago, Homo sapiens first arrived in Australia on bamboo rafts from Indonesia. Then, the Aborigines began systematically burning down the forests. As a result, many of the land-dwelling fauna went extinct. In all, fifty-some species died off from the devastating destruction.
50,000 years ago, humans migrated to South Asia and the mitochondrial haplogroups U and K appeared. People also developed highly advanced stone tool-making techniques around this time. The most advanced stone tools exhibited distinct and consistent regional differences in style, reflective of a high degree of cultural diversity.
45,000 years ago Homo sapiens made it to Flores. Form that time on, H. floresiensis lived contemporaneously with H. sapiens on that island. Hobbits and humans even learned to speak each other’s language.
44,000 years ago, people migrated into Europe from central Asia and the Middle East, where they encountered Neanderthals, for better or worse. Similarly, large numbers of Homo sapiens were migrating to Australia and Europe.
43,000 years ago, Homo sapiens used caverns and caves as ritual chambers, climbing deep inside of mountains or far down into the ground to build portals to the spirit world. These were among the earliest sacred spaces that our ancestors used as places of worship, where they would chant archaic incantations and become possessed by the spirits of their ancestors and the animals they depended on.
42,000 years ago, several human populations dug graves to remove corpses from habitation areas, in an attempt to avoid attracting scavengers and to participate in the natural grieving process associated with the loss of loved ones. This macabre meme became rather widespread fairly quickly.
36,000 years ago, dogs became man’s best friend, when Canis lupus familiaris was tamed by Homo sapien sapiens. The least aggressive wolves went from the fringes of our communities all the way into our homes, becoming humanity’s first pets.
30,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had to build permanent homes to shelter from the increasingly longer winters. Then, in the summer, they followed the herds and lived in mobile tents. They also used pits dug in the permafrost as natural freezers, and hearths in which hot stones were used to heat water in skin-lined pits.
27,000 years ago, although humans and Neanderthals had lived together for thousands of years, more or less attempting to maintain their distinct cultural identities and genetic lineages, the Neanderthals eventually went extinct.
25,000 years ago, in Europe, people were still hunting and gathering rather than farming. So, hunter-gatherer groups often fluctuated seasonally in size between that of nuclear family-sized groups in times of resource scarcity, and large aggregations of multi-family units, containing dozens of individuals, during periods of resource abundance.
20,000 years ago, was a time that marked the beginning of the Epipaleolithic period of prehistory, which was the first part of the Holocene epoch. This was the time of the Younger Dryas near the end of the Ice Age when there was a period of sudden cooling and a return to glacial conditions. This served as a highly transformative time in the development of our species.
12,800 years ago, the Chukchi became the first settlers to arrive in North America. They paddled east along an exposed land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska. Then, they used the rivers, and other waterways, to travel inland. In this way, a number of Native American populations, such as the Navajo, spread into and across the continent, in a relatively short period of time.
12,500 years ago, a catastrophic volcanic eruption on Flores was responsible for the demise of Homo floresiensis. So, after having interacted with each other for millennia, the generations of history between humans and hobbits ended, in one fell swoop.
12,000 years ago, the Natufians founded a village at Jericho. They chose the lushest oasis in the Jordan Valley because the Levant hosts more than a hundred kinds of cereals, fruits, nuts, and other edible parts of plants. This was important because these were affluent hunter-gatherers who were becoming farmers and shepherds, complete with sheepdogs.
11,500 years ago, advanced megalithic societies began producing extraordinary stone structures in order to access the spirit world and harness unseen forces in a new way. The temples at the Giza plateau on the Nile in Egypt and Potbelly Hill on the Euphrates in Turkey were both used religiously by Neolithic pilgrims.
11,000 years ago, the transition from foraging to farming involved a reduced availability of animal protein. This move from horticulture to agriculture occurred in conjunction with an increased reliance on a limited number of domesticated plants. On average, many of these plants offered a poor nutritional base. So, stunted growth was common among the first civilizations.
10,000 years ago, after generations of experience, the Agricultural Revolution was well underway across the globe. As the climate, vegetation, and fauna became increasingly more modern, early human populations, all around the world, began to control the breeding of more and more plants and, to a lesser extent, animals.
9,500 years ago, when the Upper Paleolithic ended and the Neolithic began, clay and plaster statues were first being molded in Jericho and other major settlements.
9,000 years ago, incised “counting tokens” were created in the Neolithic fertile crescent of Asia, in the early Near East. They were clay symbols of multiple shapes used to count, store, and communicate economic data. This was the first form of currency.
8,000 years ago, the Halaf culture flourished in Mesopotamia. This was when copper was being used in the Near East for the very first time. Along with this, the first batches of wine were being produced in Georgia for the first time as well.
7,000 years ago, the first true city was established on the southernmost tip of a conglomeration of Sumerian towns that would grow larger as temples got taller. Eridu was the first port in the world and the home of the original dynastic king who lived in the first palace in the world.
6,500 years ago, it became necessary to justify a ruler’s authority based on divine selection. On occasion, the monarch himself was actually considered holy and worthy of worship. However, in order to maintain such authority, it became necessary to establish new forms of law based primarily on individual and state-administered revenge.
6,000 years ago, the Mesopotamian metropolis of Ur was situated on early trade routes, which ran along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, as well as the Persian Gulf. Since urbanization depended on irrigation, this made it possible to grow bushels of wheat and barley in record numbers. This led to a major increase in population.
5,000 years ago, most Homo sapiens ceased to grow or raise their own food, which meant that farmers needed to get the crops to everyone else. This required a new job, and so on and so forth. Thus, the first empire builders came to power in ancient Sumeria. This created the need for a complex record-keeping system, which placed a novel demand on society that eventually led to the invention of writing, and the rest is history….