12 Bored apes that
really existed 

Homo sapiens are the only survivors of a once diverse group of ape-like and more modern hominins, collectively known as the hominins. So far the group includes around 20 known species.  What did those hominins look like? Paleo-artist John Gurche used the latest forensic techniques and fossil discoveries to create lifelike head reconstructions of early humans.

 

The Hominins Collection by John Gurche gives collectors a unique opportunity to get up close with our earliest ancestors and learn about human evolution. The collection consists of 12 painstakingly researched faces, 8 of which are on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s Hall of Human Origins.  Credits

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Sahelanthropus tchadensis

88

Description

Found in Chad and thought to have lived between six and seven million years ago, not long after the split between humans and chimpanzees. This skull is very apelike, but has small canine teeth and signs the head was held upright, both of which resemble members of the human family.

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Ardipithecus ramidus

88

Description

A female called “Ardi,” who lived 4.4 million years ago, discovered in Ethiopia in 1994. The earliest partial skeleton known for a hominin, Ardi’s is very apelike, including a grasping big toe for climbing. But it also shows subtle adaptations for bipedal walking. As with Sahelanthropus, the brain was ape-sized.

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Australopithecus afarensis

88

Description

Known from a partial skeleton (“Lucy”) and more than 300 other individuals, this species survived nearly a million years (3.85-2.95 million years ago), probably due to its range of locomotor skills—capable of walking bipedally and climbing trees. Its brain averaged only slightly larger than a chimpanzee’s.

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Australopithecus africanus

88

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Raymond Dart discovered this first-known skull of Australopithecus in 1924. He recognized two human-like features in its very apelike skull: small canine teeth and signs that the head was held on a vertical neck as in an upright posture—characteristics still used today to identify hominins with otherwise ape-like anatomy.

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Homo habilis

88

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This is the oldest known species within our genus. Its average brain size was significantly larger than in earlier hominins, and its jaws and chewing teeth are smaller. It is found in sediments between 2.8 and 1.4 million years old, in association with an abundance of stone tools.

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Paranthropus boisei

88

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This species coincided with Homo habilis in east Africa 2.3 to 1.2 million years ago. A vegetarian, it had molars four times the surface area of ours for chewing roots, seeds and nuts. While probably a tool-maker, it belongs to a branch of the human evolutionary tree that did not lead to H. sapiens.

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Australopithecus sediba

88

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Dated to 1.98 million years old, it is the only Australopithecus with some features of early Homo in the form of the forehead, a slightly projecting nose and features of the pelvis. Like its genus, it is a well-adapted biped on the ground but retained climbing features in the arm and shoulder.

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Homo erectus

88

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Had an average brain size nearly two-thirds as large as our own. It was the first-known hominin to have human-like body proportions, likely a result of a carnivore’s built-to-travel lifestyle. Emerged 2 million years ago and lived more than 1.8 million years, making it the longest surviving of all our hominin relatives.

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Homo heidelbergensis

88

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Lived 700,000 to 200,000 years ago in Africa and Europe. Compared with H. erectus, it had a larger brain, with some individuals reaching into our modern brain size range. The first evidence of symbolic behaviors, such as the use of pigments and special treatment of the dead, occur with this species.

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Homo naledi

88

Description

Discovered in 2013 in South Africa, this genus had Homo-like hands, wrists, feet and skull shape, but its small brain, upper body and trunk were like those of australopithecines. Despite primitive characteristics typical of fossils over 2 million years old, H. naledi lived only between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago.

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Homo floresiensis

88

Description

Lived on the island of Flores, and shows a fascinating mix of primitive and more modern features. Archaic features such as a tiny brain are startling in a hominin that survived until 50,000 years ago, but this hominin was able to use fire, make stone tools and hunt.

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Homo neanderthalensis

88

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Our cold-adapted, very robust cousins. Kissing cousins, as it turns out, because genetic evidence indicates that they interbred with our ancestors. Their adaptation to cold included physical features such as short, wide bodies with short limbs, and cultural developments such as clothing and shelters.

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