writes the evolutionary anthropologist Robert Foley.
FIGURE 2.3. THE THREE HUMAN SPECIES OF 50,000 YEARS AGO.
The world 50,000 years ago was occupied by three human species—Homo erectus in East Asia, the Neanderthals in Europe, and the ancestral human population in northeast Africa. In addition Homo floresiensis, thought at present to be a downsized version of Homo erectus, lived on the island of Flores, in Indonesia.
Because of the ice age conditions that then prevailed, sea level was some
200 feet lower than at present and land area was larger, as shown by the shaded areas round the continents.
The range shown for Homo erectus encompasses sites that range from 1.7 million to 50,000 years ago in age. The species probably did not occupy all of this range throughout the period, and toward the end of it was probably found mostly in southeast Asia. The range and location indicated for the ancestral human population is conjectural.
The Acheulean stone tool kit was followed by one that archaeologists use to define the Middle Stone Age in Africa and the Middle Paleolithic or Mousterian in Europe. The makers of the Middle Stone Age tools were the descendants of ergaster, on the way to becoming large-brained Homo sapiens, while Mousterian artifacts are the handiwork of ergaster's European cousins, the Neanderthals. The tool kits in both continents are very similar, and both differ very little from the Acheulean. The principal difference is the absence of the characteristic Acheulean hand axes.
Perhaps archaic humans learned how to mount smaller stones on handles,
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