Hominin Expansions

Miriam N. Haidle

Apart from biological features also cognitive and social characteristics were formed in the course of the human evolution. They are the basis for the cultural development of humans and shape the large adaptability of modern humans.

Biological expansions of hominins

In the course of the human evolution of the last three million years many aspects of human biology and with it the modes of action for the different human forms changed crucially. The morphology of the locomotion apparatus informs about the development of the upright walk and generalized hands free for grabbing. The examination of teeth morphology and microwear, and the analysis of isotopes and trace elements in the bones yield information on different diets. The brain size increased considerably, certain areas such as frontal and parietal lobe and all language relevant areas are of particular importance. The anatomical ability to produce and percept sounds changed. Childhood, youth and the phase after reproductive fertility are clearly extended with modern humans - with strong social effects. DNA studies on modern humans and fossil skeletons show a clear increase of general gene activity in the brain. Individual genes have been identified, which are part of the regulation of brain size, the development of the brain cortex, skin and hair pigmentation as well as language production. Different biological aspects are incorporated in the ROAData base, in order to identify the characteristic features of different hominin forms and to pursue their temporal-spatial distribution.

Cognitive expansions of hominins

The cognitive development of humans can be reconstructed - beyond the neuroanatomical and genetic levels - through artifacts. Several modern animals show various modes of production and use of tools with different flexibility in various behavioral contexts. Human artifacts have been known from the last 2.5 million years; due to preservation reasons they are mainly limited to stone raw materials. The extension of the effective chain seems to be a typically human feature: Tools are not only made with the hands as physical means, they can also be manufactured with other tools (and these tools again with further tools etc.). In the course of human evolution the time depth of problem perception and solution are clearly being extended. The flexibility in the use of problem-solution-concepts increases enormously. The use of small behavioural units and with them tools is not bound to certain needs anymore, but they become freely combinable. And the aspect of symbolic perception and expression is common knowledge among modern humans. In the context of ROCEEH the development of these cognitive aspects are to be broken down temporally and spatially and linked to tool development and the evolution of different human forms.