1 – 2 million years ago

The first people

The first people

Homo is the scientific name we give to species of human beings. There have been several species of people, but there are still a great number of uncertainties about how Homo evolved.

It is likely that Homo evolved from Australopithecus. Some scientists believe that Australopithecus africanus is a direct ancestor of modern humans, but others believe it is a separate, extinct branch of hominids. Australopithecus africanus lived at the same time as some of the early species of humans.

It seems possible that the evolution of Homo was linked to global climate changes between two and three million years ago. Australopithecus favoured tropical woodlands but their habitat was disappearing due to cooler temperatures.

Several species of Homo, including Homo rudolfensis, Homo habilis and Homo ergaster evolved rapidly to occupy the new habitats of Africa. Homo erectus evolved about 1.8 million years ago and very rapidly spread from Africa out to many parts of Europe and Asia. It was, perhaps, another species of people, Homo heidelbergensis, that migrated from Africa into Europe about 750 000 years ago and evolved into the Neanderthals.

AustralopithecusAustralopithecus

Australopithecus was a hominid (a group of primates) but not a human being.

The NeanderthalsThe Neanderthals

About 22 hours ago in our timeline (about 200 000 years ago in real time), the first Neanderthal emerged.

HomoHomo

The first species that can be called human, Homo habilis, evolved in Africa

The Earth is now 46 years oldBack to 100-0 million years ago

The Earth is now 46 years old.