What Are The Origins Of Human Race?

I. J. Samson
St. John's, Newfoundland

By Gerald C (Grade 9)

"It all started in 1871 when Charles Darwin published a book called The Descent Of Man. This stated that man had evolved from apes; human beings had not suddenly appeared on the earth, they had developed over thousands of years."

In Mid-Victorian Britain, this was taken as a shock, this was the opposite of what the people had learned from the Bible. People were skeptical and wondered how man could have descended from a tribe of smelly, hairy apes, but now, in the civilized world, the idea of evolution is more widely accepted. Part of Darwin's problem was finding actual evidence to prove his theory correct; the missing links, so to speak.

The first important fossil "Ape-Man" was found in south-east Africa. He was called Australopithecus africanus. He walked upright, but not as well as we probably do. He probably hunted for animals in groups. Most people referred to him as man's cousin not a direct ancestor.

In the 1880s, a young Dutchman named Dubois decided to search for man's earliest ancestor on the island of Java. He was successful. He discovered the remains of Homo erectus, Homo meaning "man", erectus meaning "upright". Homo erectus was also found in China and other parts of Asia. In 1856, a fossil skeleton was dug up in a cave by workmen near Dusseldorf, Germany. It was found in the Neander Valley so became known as the Neanderthal Man.

Since the Neanderthal Man discovery in Dusseldorf, many more have been discovered. Neanderthal Man wore clothing and made sophisticated tools. Neanderthal Man disappeared about 25,000 years ago, leaving another group of creatures who lived at the same time. These creatures were our true ancestors, Homo sapiens or "Thinking Man". They were called Cro-Magnon after the French site where the early discovery was made. Cro-Magnon was probably very much like present-day man, except a little shorter. They were our first ancestors capable of communication. These people lived in rock shelters with inner fur tents. They painted rocks with charcoal and oils mixed with clay.

Man belongs to a class of animals known as primates. The first primates appeared after the dinosaurs died out and were shrew-like animals that ate insects. These were the descendants of apes and monkeys, and much later developed into man. 12 million years ago, a man-like primate, Ramapithecus existed, but this ape-man still looked like the present-day Homo sapiens.

Present-day scientists have discovered many fossils and other remains of "Human like" creatures and have pieced together a large part of the story of man. Much is still missing and many scientists and anthropologists are still searching for the lost chapters.

Any reference to "MAN" in this article reefers to the entire human race, not the specific gender.

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