Homo sapiens: Earliest forms of our own species
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The surviving physical evidence, from skulls such as these, suggests that the transition from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens, the earliest forms of our own species, occurred approximately 300,000 to 400,000 years ago. At the same time, more detail begins to be preserved in the fossil record, such as wooden tools and weapons which give evidence of a hunting life-style. The skull shown at far left, approximately 300,000 years old, was found near Petralona in north- eastern Greece and is the most complete find of early (or archaic) Homo sapiens. Classification of this skull initially proved difficult, however, because it exhibits features of late Homo erectus. The same skull is shown in profile in the center image.

The partial skull above right is over 300,000 years old; it was found in the cave of Arago in Tautavel in southern France. The speciman is important because it preserves facial features. If the transition from H. erectus to our own species was gradual and occurred over a wide area geographically, these intermediate forms are what we would expect to find. However, many scientists point to the statistical unlikelihood of such an evolutionary development occurring "in parallel" over wide areas.


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