Chapter 9 The Deep History of Hominins

 Human like “animals” have been developed on earth within the last several million years.  They appear to have gone through a creative development process similar to that of many animal lines but in a rather accelerated process.  The end result of that process has produced something that is certainly light years ahead of any other animal.  To conclude that it happened by purely random chance stretches credibility beyond reasonable limits.

Humans have a spirit that is inventive and not merely controlled by a built-in instinct.  This makes them so different from other animals.  They are designers, creators, and developers… for better or worse!  No other animal can have such an impact on the earth’s environment.  They envision the future and build it.  They evaluate the past and contemplate it.  That spirit provides a living example of the possibility of an even greater supernatural spiritual existence.  It shows how such a spirit might function.  It is a spirit that doesn’t function or react in purely physical, scientific ways.

The fossil record reveals that these marvelous creatures were not created from scratch 6-10,000 years ago.  The record is very clear on that.  That record reveals a physical developmental process that went on for thousands, indeed, several millions of years.  The story is told, not only by fossil bones as the history of other animals is told, but in the last two and a half million years, by the things they created with their superior minds and abilities.  This aspect of the story we call archaeology, the study of human artifacts.  It is largely the result of the development of the human brain.  This allowed human artifacts and culture to develop almost exponentially in the last 40,000 years or so.  But that development is the story of the next chapter.

In the words of a very notable prehistorian:

But even if important details remain to be fixed, the significance of modern human origins cannot be overstated.  Before the emergence of modern people, the human form and human behavior evolved together slowly, hand in hand.  Afterward, fundamental evolutionary change in body form ceased, while behavioral (cultural) evolution accelerated dramatically.  A reasonable explanation is that the modern human form- or more precisely the modern human brain- permitted the full development of culture in the modern sense… (Klein, 2009:615).

In the next chapter the artifacts and archaeology will be examined.  In this chapter a brief look at the development of the human skull should verify the overall picture of human development.

A Summary Look at the Bones…

The human skull and skeletal form is much like that of an ape.  Even a child recognizes the superficial similarities between monkeys, apes, and humans.  It is not rocket science to do so.  Though there are physical similarities there is also a world of difference between monkeys, apes, and humans.  That difference is in the mind, spirit, and capabilities to develop complex technologies and cultures.  Humans have a spirit that is not controlled by natural processes.  The human spirit, in that sense, is “super” natural.  It controls nature, not vice versa.

But the physical skull and skeletal features seem to develop early on.  At the time of the hominins the skull and skeletal features of these organisms begin to take on more of a human proclivity than an ape and monkey proclivity.   The brain gets bigger.        

Aegyptopithecus zeuxis                   Age: 30 my                      Brain size: Not known but obviously small

Model of one of the earliest fossil skulls of an anthropoid is found in the Oligocene of Egypt.  It is about 30 million years old.  Aegyptopithecus zeuxis is shown below.






Aegyptopithecus zeuxis  One of the earliest anthropoid primates.    (Bone Clones BH-025)

Certainly the skull looks more like an ape than a human but if we look at its palette we find that it has the same type and number of teeth that humans do.  On each side it has two incisors, a canine, two premolars, and three molars.  This dental formula has not changed in the hominins.

Things to take note of in the coming progression of the fossil hominins:  geologic age, increasing brain size, increasingly modern human-like form of the teeth, facial projection, brow ridges, chin, and other features.

Ardipithecus ramidus    Age: 4.4 my    Brain size: small, but unknown, may or may not have been upright and bipedal.









                                                Ardipithecus ramidus (Bone Clones BH-039)


Australopithecus africanus                 Age: 3.0-2.4 my     Brain size: 461 cc

By the time we get to the fossils in the hominin group we have moved away from the ape-like similarities and to fossils that begin to look a bit more like a human, but still not totally.   Hominins are bipedal upright walking and begin to have bigger brains than apes. Below we have a sample of an Australopithecus.   This fossil is from an environment about 2.5 million years old.







 Australopithecus africanus
. (“Mrs. Ples”) Note that the jaw bone and teeth are reconstructed, not from the original fossil.  (Bone Clones BH-007-C)

 Homo habilis             Age: 1.9 my              Brain size: 612 cc









                                             Homo habilis   (KNM-ER 1813)   (Bone Clones BH-034)

Homo erectus             Age: 1.7-0.7 mya              Brain size: 600-900 cc








                                        Homo erectus  (Dmanisi Skull 5 estimated to be about 1.7 my old)                                                                                                           (Bone Clones BH-053)

Homo heidelbergensis   Age: 600-400 kya Brain size:1200+ cc




                                      Homo heidelbergensis   (Bodo skull)  Note: light material indicates                                                                         material  was not in original fossil.  (Bone Clones BH-041-C)

 Homo neanderthalensis       Age: 200(?)-30 kya         Brain size: 1435 cc









                              Homo neanderthalensis  (Shanidar 1 est. 40-70 my old)  (Bone Clones BH-050)


Homo sapiens         Age: 150 kya (?)           Brain size: 1350+ cc


                               Homo sapiens  A model of the general modern skull form.  (Source not known.)


The hominin skulls of the previous pictures are grouped in the next two pictures for easier comparison of skull features.


For further comparison… A picture in my files from the Prague Museum of Natural History.  It is a classic modern Homo sapiens in a grave site… It shows the classic features o the modern human skull: High forehead, small brow ridges, vertical face, prominent chin, etc.

This sequence of hominin skulls should not even remotely be considered an evolutionary line of organisms.  It is merely to show that through the time period involved (30my-the present) that developing sequences of humanlike organisms, from an anthropoid, “ape-like” form to near modern looking hominins, can be found as fossils.  They existed at approximately the times listed.  The casts and models are based on actual fossils.  The history of their individual progressing lines is way beyond the scope of this presentation.

 This has only been a sampling of the record of the hominins to show the basic nature of the situation.  If one wishes a more complete analysis and encyclopedic coverage of what is known about the subject,  Klein, 2009 is suggested as a starting point.  A less intimidating and more accessible introduction to the basics can be found in Tattersall 1995.  Either of these will provide endless references for further exploration.

Summary of The Hominins
This brief pictorial overview of the history of the hominins illustrates the change in what can reasonably be considered the human form throughout the past four million years or so.  Certainly infinitely more detail could be presented but this overview should be adequate to show that development or evolution of the human form has occurred over this extensive time period.  The real cause of these changes is the key question in relation to faith.  This is dealt with in other chapters of the book. The fact that significant changes have occurred in the basic human form as is illustrated by these skulls should be beyond question.


References for Chapter 9

Klein, Richard G
2009  The Human Career, 3rd ed.  The University of Chicago Press.

Tattersall, Ian
1995  The Fossil Train.  Oxford University Press.