Human Evolution Timeline

The smooth continuity of the human evolution timeline in physical transformation and location is—unfortunately for those who wish humans had not evolved—a thing of beauty.

This page is reference information for the Evolution of Man page. The Evolution of Man page has excerpts from this chart that clearly show the smooth development in time, morphology, brain size, and location from Ardipithecus ramidus to us.

A more graphical human evolution timeline chart is at the bottom of this page, though it's not as updated as the list that follows.

Human Evolution Timeline: Pre-Australopithecine

Pierolapithecus catalaunicus

age: 11.9 mya
fossils found: nearly complete cranium, much of torso, arms and legs, parts of hands
adaptations: small monkey-like hands, wider pelvis than predecessors, expanded rib cage for climbing
location found: Spain
notes: may be common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans in the human evolution timeline; probably walked semi-upright using forelimbs

Sahelanthropus tchadensis

age: 6 – 7 mya
fossils found: nearly complete cranium, some fragments lower jaw & teeth
brain size: 350 cc
adaptations: ape-like, including small brain size, hominid features: brow ridges, small canine teeth
location found: Chad, Central Africa
notes: close to common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans in the human evolution timeline; unlikely to be bipedal

Orrorin Tugenensis

age: c. 6 mya
brain size: no cranium found
fossils found: 13 fossils; partial femur, bits of jaw and teeth
adaptations: unknown
location found: Kenya, Africa
notes: some indications of bipedality, but evidence is scant

Ardipithecus ramidus

age: 5.8 – 4.4 mya
brain size: approx. 400 cc (chimp-size)
fossils found: 110 specimens, almost complete skeleton
adaptations: canine teeth intermediate between earlier apes & A. afarensis
location found: Ethiopia
notes: bipedal forest dweller(!), Canines smaller, not pointed

Ardipithecus kadabba

age: 5.8 – 5.2 mya
brain size: no evidence
fossils found: fragments, mostly teeth
adaptations: smaller canines than apes (a feature of hominids)
location found: Ethiopia
notes:

Human Evolution Timeline: Genus Australopithecus

Australopithecus anamensis

age: 4.2 – 3.9 mya
brain size: unknown
fossils found: tibia, lower jawbone
adaptations: very likely bipedal, thick enamel on teeth (hominid characteristic)
location found: Kenya, Africa
notes: tibia shape indicates bipedalism

Australopithecus afarensis

age: 3.9 – 2.9 mya
brain size: 375 – 500 cc (large male–female size difference)
fossils found: hundreds of fossils, fourteen partial skeletons, and footprints(!)
adaptations: certainly bipedal, chimp-like skull, flat nose, no chin w/ human-like teeth, jaw between ape & human
location found: Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cameroon
notes: This is Lucy's species; she's an original, important "missing link."

Kenyanthropus platyops

age: 3.5 – 3.3 mya
brain size: unknown
fossils found: two partial skulls
adaptations: small ear canals, small teeth like Homo rudolfensis (branch of Homo habilis)
location found: Lake Turkana, Kenya, Africa
notes: scientists disagree whether these skulls deserve their own species

Australopithecus africanus

age: 3 – 2 mya
brain size: 420 – 500 cc
fossils found: partial skull, cranium, body & pelvis
adaptations: fully human-shaped jaw, canine teeth reduced from afarensis, human-like pelvis
location found: South Africa
notes: everything seems clearly adapted from afarensis

Australopithecus garhi

age: 2.5 mya
brain size: ?
fossils found: partial skull
adaptations: ?
location found: Ethiopia
notes: some evidence for tool use, otherwise not much known

Australopithecus aethiopicus

age: 2.6 – 2.3 mya
brain size: 410 cc
fossils found: "The Black Skull" and some minor fossils
adaptations: baffling; small brain, massive face & very strong jaw
location found:Ethiopia, Kenya
notes: some say this is perfect intermediate between afarensis and boisei, limited information

Australopithecus robustus

age: 2 – 1.5 mya
brain size: 530 cc
fossils found: many, mostly cranial and dental
adaptations: body like africanus, but larger skull, molars, and massive face & brow ridge, small canines
location found: South Africa
notes: bones found w/ robustus fossils may have been tools, this line of hominids had strong jaws and huge molars for crunching rough food, then probably went extinct (no descendants in southern Africa)

Australopithecus sediba

age: 1.95 – 1.8 mya
brain size: 420 cc
fossils found: two partial skeletons, most of cranium in juvenile
adaptations: more Homo adaptations than any other Australopithecine, pelvis is particularly advanced for bipedality so that it may have been capable of running, and brain case is shaped more towards human
location found: South Africa
notes: New discovery, described in April, 2010 (!); pelvis and leg indicate it's bipedal; more recent than many Homo fossils, thus unlikely to be human ancestor; probable adult height 4'6" for male, 4'2" for female

Australopithecus boisei

age: 2.1 – 1.1 mya
brain size: 530 cc
fossils found: many, mostly cranial and dental
adaptations: may just be robustus
location found: Tanzania, Kenya, & Ethiopia, Africa
notes: used to be Zinjanthropus; an unlikely human ancestor, probably went extinct due to over-specialization with it's huge molars and small canines; some make them Paranthropus boisei

Human Evolution Timeline: Genus Homo

Homo gautengensis

age: 2 million to 600,000 years ago
brain size: awaiting publication
fossils found: partial skull, several jaws, teeth and other bones
adaptations: bipedalism, further information awaiting publication
location found: Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa
notes: Very stocky! 3 foot tall and 110 pounds; bipedal tree dweller

Homo habilis

age: 2.4 – 1.5 mya
brain size: 500 – 800 cc
fossils found: many
adaptations: primitive face, smaller teeth than australopithecines, human-shaped brain, had "Broca's area," a section of brain we currently use for speech
location found: Kenya & Tanzania, Africa
notes: named habilis for tools found with fossils, may need to be more than one species, Homo rudolfensis is suggested in addition

Homo georgicus

age: 1.8 mya
brain size: 600 – 780 cc
fossils found: thirty or so partial skulls & a partial skeleton
adaptations: intermediate between habilis and erectus
location found: Dminisi, Georgia (eastern Europe)
notes: First hominids out of Africa, a huge surprise because they didn't have the brains or tools of Homo erectus

Homo floresiensis

age: 1.1 mya to 17,000 years ago (possibly 2 mya!)
brain size: 420 cc
fossils found: several almost full skeletons
adaptations: dwarf hominim found on island; large feet, ape-like hands, small brain, similar features to H. habilis
location found: Flores, Indonesia
notes: dwarves of species commonly develop on islands, these were 3 feet tall; hunted dwarf elephants and large rats; new research on relative brain size suggests they descended from H. georgicus or habilis rather than erectus

Homo erectus

age: 1.8 million – 300,000 years ago
brain size: 750 – 1225 cc
fossils found: lots and lots
adaptations: jaw still protrudes, no chin, thick brow ridges, small forehead, but larger brains and excellent walkers
location found: Africa, Europe, Asia
notes: probably used fire, brains got larger over time

Homo ergaster

age: same as erectus
brain size: slightly smaller than erectus
fossils found: these would be the African erectus fossils reclassified
adaptations: taller & thinner & different-shaped brow ridges than European & Asian erectus fossils
location found: Africa
notes: some scientists make the African erectus fossils to be Homo ergaster

Homo antecessor

age: 780,000 years ago
brain size: 1000 cc
fossils found: six individuals
adaptations: mid-facial area modern, other parts primitive
location found: Spain
notes: oldest European hominids, may just be erectus or early heidelbergensis

Homo sapiens
or
Homo heidelbergensis

age: 500,000 years ago
brain size: 1200 cc
fossils found: many skulls
adaptations: intermediate between erectus and human in thickness of bones & size of teeth, receding foreheads and chins
location found: Europe
notes: some scientists consider these the European version of Homo erectus; later ones are difficult to distinguish from early Homo sapiens; sometimes heidelbergensis is called Homo sapiens (archaic) in contrast to modern humans who are Homo sapiens sapiens

Denisovans (Sometimes referred to as Homo denisova,but this is not correct ... yet.)

age: 500,000 – 30,000 years ago
brain size: unknown
fossils found: child's finger and adult molar (significant DNA sequenced)
adaptations: unknown
location found: Denisova cave, Siberia
notes: Living humans, especially in the islands around New Guinea, inherited genes from this population. We know nothing about them other than they existed, and there is debate about whether they deserve their own species designation. The sequenced DNA has shed much light on the geographical spread of humans and human ancestors, but there is also much debate as the discovery is so new.

Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalis (or just Neandertals)

age: 400,000 – 30,000 years ago
brain size: 1450 cc
fossils found: lots and lots, entire genome sequenced
adaptations: midfacial area protrudes, long low brain case, thick & strong, near our height; many adaptations seem like adaptations for cold
location found: Europe, Middle East, and Asia
notes: first hominids to bury dead, lots of tools & weapons, lived brutal lives; brain was larger than ours! Often spelled Neandertal now. Humans carry some Neandertal genes, indicating interbreeding. Thus, by some paleontologists' definition, they cannot be a separate species.

Cro-Magnon
(Homo sapiens)

age: 50,000 – 10,000 years ago
brain size: 1350 cc
fossils found: many
adaptations: These are now classified as anatomically-modern humans
location found: Europe
notes: Our ancestors in Europe were thicker in tooth and bone than we are

Homo sapiens

age: 195,000 years ago – 2009
brain size: 1350 cc
fossils found: living samples available in large quantities
adaptations: forehead rises sharply, small or non-existent brow ridges, prominent chin, thin skeleton
location found: everywhere
notes: tooth and face bone size is still decreasing over the last 20,000 years of the human evolution timeline!

Legend for the human evolution timeline:

  • mya – million years ago
  • cc – cubic centimeter, about 240 cc's to one cup

One important source for the human evolution timeline for this page is the Fossil Hominids FAQ at talkorigins.org.

This page is kept up to date with breaking news. Information on known species is updated, and new species—like Ardipithecus ramidus and Homo gautengensis—are added as they are discovered.

Human Evolution Timeline Chart - Graphical

For those of you that like your charts more visual, this is used with permission from talkorigins.org. It is not as up to date as my table above.

Human evolution timeline chart

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