Welcome To The Ancient World








Australopithecus Africanus

This prehistoric skull is adult and thought to be female. It is the first hominid species to exist and in fact this is the most complete skull ever found. It has a shorter face than the Australopithecus Afarensis species and strong cheekbones to support large chewing muscles. Its brain was similar in size to that of modern apes such as chimpanzees.

It was found in Sterkfontein, South Africa is kept in the Maropeng Museum, South Africa, It is about 2.5 million years old. (This photo is a cast on display at the Science Museum, London.)

Australopithecus Afarensis

Australopithecus Afarensis lived from about 3.9–2.9 million years ago in the Pliocene of East Africa. The first fossils were discovered in the 1930s but major fossil finds would not take place until the 1970s.


Australopithecus africanus is an extinct species of australopithecine which lived between about 3.3 and 2.1 million years ago in the Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene of South Africa.

Homo Erecectus/Ergastor

Homo erectus, (Latin: upright man), sometimes called Homo Ergastor, is an archaic African

species of the human genus (Homo) from the Pleistocene, with its earliest occurrence about 2 million years ago and thought to be an ancestor of modern humans (Homo sapiens)

It is the earliest known species to have possessed human-like body proportions with relatively elongated legs and shorter arms compared to the size of the torso.

These features are considered adaptations for living on the ground, indicating the permanent move away from tree-climbing. A new body type came with an ability to walk and travel distances. The most complete fossil individual of this species is known as the ‘Turkana Boy’.

As more and more fossil ancestors have been found, our genus has become more and more inclusive, incorporating more members that look less like us, Homo sapiens. By getting to know the hominins that came before us, we can start to answer some big questions about what it essentially means to be human. This is a great youtube video that outlines everything about hominins and the argument around what features of a species define whether it is a human ancestor or not.


Nature Field Trip

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Public Library Field Trip

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Preparing for Summer School

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Virtual Learning

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f you follow news about human evolution, you’ve probably noticed that our ancestors are increasingly called hominins rather than hominids. Why the change? It’s the result of researchers revising how they classify primates.

The system of taxonomy that biologists use to categorize animals, plants, bacteria and other organisms is based on the work of the 17th-century scientist Carl Linnaeus. It consists of nested, hierarchical groups that get more and more narrow as you go down the taxonomic chain. To understand what the terms hominins and hominids mean, let’s first look at the traditional classification of modern humans.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata (animals that have a notochord at some point in their lives; in fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, the notochord becomes the vertebral column)

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates (lemurs, bush babies, tarsiers, monkeys, apes and humans)

Family: Hominidae (modern humans and our close extinct relatives, such as Ardipithecus and Australopithecus)

Genus: Homo

Species: sapiens

Under this system, the term hominid refers to members of the Hominidae family (in taxonomy, names that end in -idae refer to a family). But in the past few decades, the definition of Hominidae has been broadened to include orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees because of the recognition that these apes are very closely related to humans. In the past, they had their own family—Pongidae—based on the physical characteristics that seemed to unite the great apes as a group. Genetic analyses, however, indicated that gorillas and chimpanzees are actually more closely related to humans than they are to orangutans. Therefore, the Pongidae family didn’t make sense (in technical terms, it was paraphyletic). The genetic discoveries led to a new classification of humans, starting at the family level.

Family: Hominidae (orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and humans)

Subfamily: Homininae (gorillas, chimpanzees and humans)

Tribe: Hominini (humans and our close extinct relatives; the group that was called Hominidae in the previous classification)

Genus: Homo

Species: sapiens

Here, the term hominin refers to the tribe Hominini. That’s why many of our extinct ancestors are now called hominins. But it’s not technically wrong to call them hominids—all members of Hominini are also members of the subfamily Homininae and the family Hominidae, that’s how the nesting system works. It’s just a less precise term.

At Hominid Hunting, we generally use the term hominid in the traditional sense of the word: humans and their close extinct ancestors. But rather than being old-fashioned, I think it means we’re allowed to write about chimpanzee, gorilla or orangutan evolution from time to time.

ancient earth habitats

The following is found on the BBC website.

If you were able to travel back far in time, you’d find Earth to be a very different place – at times a giant hot molten ball of rock, at others a frozen planet completely covered in snow and ice. During its long history, Earth has been covered by habitats and experienced climates that no longer exist. Discover more about these and about the dramatic story of ancient Earth.

   coal forestsIce AgeDesert EarthSnowball Earth
coal forests thumb

At the end of the Carboniferous, shallow seas drained away leaving broad coastal plains covered in swampy forests in their stead. These lasted right through until the Permian period. Their vegetation was dense and lush and had evolved to cope with the shifting courses of rivers and the appearance and silting up of lakes. The coal forests resembled our flooded prone rainforests, mangrove swamps and cypress swamps, although the actual plants were quite different – dominated by giant relatives of horsetails and club mosses. When leaves, branches and whole trees toppled into the water, instead of decaying away they formed a layer of peat that would eventually become coal.

ice age thumb

The last ice age hasn’t ended, the climate has just warmed up a bit causing the ice sheets to retreat. When the ice was more extensive, our climate was very different. Firstly, lots of the world’s water was turned to ice, so precipitation was low: Europe received roughly half the rainfall it gets today, mostly in the summer months. Globally, summer temperatures were 4-8 Celsius colder than today. In some places, the winter temperatures were 15-20 Celsius cooler than today’s, making ice age Florida more like modern Quebec. Wind speeds were higher and dust storms were common as the wind picked up material from enlarged deserts and glacier margins. The ice age was at its most extreme – and the climate at its most severe – 18,000 years ago.

desert earth thumb

A vast desert formed in Earth’s prehistoric past when the supercontinent of Pangaea straddled the equator and stretched to the poles. Pangaea’s position influenced ocean circulation patterns, and its huge size meant that there were vast areas where moist air from the oceans never penetrated. The north east of the continent, coastal areas and the poles had water aplenty, but elsewhere deserts ruled supreme. Many of the bright red rocks of the Late Permian and Triassic are from this desert period. They often contain chunks of gypsum and other salts left by evaporating lakes since, when rain came, it was likely to be as monsoon-type deluges.

snowball earth thumb

Snowball Earth describes a theory that for millions of years the Earth was entirely smothered in ice, stretching from the poles to the tropics. This freezing happened over 650 million years ago in the Pre-Cambrian, though it’s now thought that there may have been more than one of these global glaciations. They varied in duration and extent but during a full-on snowball event, life could only cling on in ice-free refuges, or where sunlight managed to penetrate through the ice to allow photosynthesis.


Ancient World

There was a world before 1966. And a world before that!

BBC – Ancient HistoryAncient/Classical historyWorld History & TimelineAncient History-History ChannelHistory learning site

The Ancient World. Portolan maps demonstrate a knowledge of the world much earlier than we are taught at school, America was known about before Columbus went there.

Styles of old maps

Click map to enlarge

The Piri Re’is Map c1513. Note the land on the left-The Americas. Do you believe an explorer called Columbus discovered the continent in 1492?

The esoteric history of mankind

Organisations to Visit

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the new york times
How did we get to be human
by Carl Zimmer
20 Nov 2018

How Did We Get to Be Human?

In recent years, scientists have offered a flood of insights into how we became human. Fairly often, the new evidence doesn’t square with what we thought we knew.
Instead, many of these findings demand that researchers ask new questions about the human past, and envision a more complex prehistory.
When Science Times debuted 40 years ago, scientists knew far less about how our ancestors branched off from other apes and evolved into new species, known as hominins.
Back then, the oldest known hominin fossil was a diminutive, small-brained female unearthed in Ethiopia named Lucy. Her species, now known as Australopithecus afarensis, existed from about 3.85 million years ago to about 2.95 million years ago.

© Catalyst Images Human fossil
Lucy and her kin still had apelike features, like long arms and curved hands. They could walk on the ground, but inefficiently. Running was out of the question.
Hominin evolution appeared to have taken a relatively direct path from her to modern humans. The earliest known members of our genus, Homo, were taller and had long legs for walking and running, as well as much larger brains. Eventually, early Homo gave rise to our own exceptional species, Homo sapiens.
Now, it’s clear that Lucy’s species wasn’t the beginning of our evolution; it was a branch that sprouted midway along the trunk of our family tree. Researchers have found fossils of hominins dating back over six million years. Those vestiges — a leg bone here, a crushed skull there — hint at even more apelike ancestors.
But even the earliest known hominins were like us in one important regard. They appear to have been able to walk on the ground, at least for short distances.
Paleoanthropologists have uncovered a wealth of new fossils from all points on the spectrum of hominin evolution. Some clearly belonged to known species, such as Australopithecus afarensis. Some were so distinct that they deserved a new designation.

© Catalyst Images Human fossil
But others have fallen somewhere in between. Often they look like mosaics of other species, carrying remarkable combinations of traits. Some of these mosaics may have been the result of interbreeding between species.
But it may be, too, that hominins independently evolved many traits many times, along separate lines of evolution.
All this mixing and experimentation produced as many as 30 different sorts of hominins — that we know of. And one kind did not simply succeed another through history: For millions of years, several sorts of hominins coexisted.
Indeed, our own species shared this planet with near-relatives until just recently.
In 2017, researchers found the oldest known fossils of our species in Morocco, bones dating back about 300,000 years. At that time, Neanderthals also existed. They continued to live across Europe and Asia until 40,000 years ago.

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Volunteer Amber Hersel helps rescue seven-year-old Keiyana Cromartie and her family from their flooded home on Sept. 14, 2018.
At that time, too, Homo erectus, one of the oldest members of our genus, still clung to existence in what is now Indonesia. The species did not go extinct until at least 143,000 years ago.
Homo erectus and Neanderthals are hardly new to paleoanthropologists. Neanderthals came to light in 1851, and Homo erectus fossils were discovered in the 1890s. But still other hominins, recent research has shown, shared the planet with our own species.
In 2015, researchers unearthed 250,000-year-old fossils in a South African cave. Known as Homo naledi, this new species had a Lucy-sized brain, but it was also a complex structure in ways that resembled our own.
The wrist and other hand bones of Homo naledi were humanlike, while its long, curved fingers seemed more like an ape’s.
While Homo naledi thrived in Africa, another mysterious species could be found on an island now called Flores, in Indonesia. Known as Homo floresiensis, these hominins stood only three feet high and had brains even smaller than that of Homo naledi.

© Catalyst Images Dr Peter Schmid (R) from The University of Zurich prepare ‘Neo’, a new found fossil skeleton in the Cradle Of Human Kind area, to be displayed on May 8, 2017 in Maropeng, South Africa. Primitive hominids may have cohabited in Africa with the early modern men, scientists have put forward for the first time, a scenario that further complicates the genealogical tree of the human species. Among others a new skeleton was discovered in one of the chambers, the skeleton was nicknamed ‘Neo’ by the team, chosen for the Sesotho word meaning ‘a gift’. According to Berger ‘The skeleton of Neo is one the most complete ever discovered, and technically even more complete than the famous Lucy fossil, given the preservation of the skull and mandible’. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
The species may have arrived on Flores as early as 700,000 years ago, and these hominins endured until at least 60,000 years ago. Homo floresiensis appears to have made stone tools, perhaps to hunt and butcher the dwarf elephants that once lived on the island.
Paleoanthropologists today are no longer limited to just examining the size and shape of fossils. Over the past 20 years, geneticists have learned how to extract DNA from bones dating back tens of thousands of years.
In one remarkable discovery in Siberia, researchers examining a nondescript pinkie bone discovered the genome of a separate line of hominins, now known as Denisovans.
As it turns out, we have had the planet to ourselves only in the past 40,000 years — a small fraction of Homo sapiens’ existence. Perhaps we outcompeted other species. Maybe they just had bad luck in evolution’s lottery.
But in one way, we are still living with them. Both Neanderthals and Denisovans interbred with our ancestors some 60,000 years ago, and billions of people today carry their DNA. Still mosaics, after all this time.