Top 10 Discoveries in Human Evolution


From the weird mix of 60’s mod cons in a prehistoric setting which were a running joke in ‘The Flintstones, to the club-swinging antics of The Slag Brothers in Wacky Races, to the glorious sight of a fur-bikini clad Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. to the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer played by Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live, pop culture has always presented us with a unique take on our prehistoric ancestors.  But how close were any of these depictions to the evolutionary truth?  Read the following top ten discoveries in human evolution, and decide for yourself!

10.  Sahelanthropus Tchadensis


This extinct hominid species dates back to around 7 million years ago, although its exact location on the human evolutionary tree is controversial, since it pre-dates the divergence of human and chimpanzee species and there is only one reliable specimen: a cranium known as Toumai.  Discovered in the Djurab desert of Chad between 2001 and 2002 by a team led by Michel Brunet, the enigmatic Toumai skull suggests that the species had a head similar in size to that of a chimpanzee, and was bipedal like Homo Sapiens, but had far flatter facial features.

9.  Australopithecus Afarensis


The best known individual example of this species, which lived between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago, was discovered in 1974 at Hadar in the Awash Valley in Ethiopia by Tom Gray and Donald Johanson.  A female, the remains were christened “Lucy’” because the Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was playing repeatedly on a tape recorder as they subsequently celebrated at their camp.  Lucy has a valgus knee, which indicates that she walked upright, a pubic arch similar to modern human females, and probably had ape-like facial features.

8.  Neanderthal Infants


Recent research directed by the University of Oxford and the University of Cork, alongside the University of St. Petersburg, suggests that Neanderthals probably died out much earlier than had been previously thought.  The Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit allowed scientists to directly date the fossil of a Neanderthal infant found in the Mezmaiskaya cave in the northern Caucasus to 39,700 years ago, making it 10,000 years older than original research suggested.  It is now believed that any interaction between modern humans and Neanderthals would have lasted a few hundred, rather than a few thousand years, and that, in some regions, Neanderthals may have been completely extinct before modern humans moved out of Africa 65,000 years ago.

7.  Sex With Neanderthals!


DNA evidence discovered by a team of scientists, led by Professor Peter Parham at Stanford University School of Medicine, suggests that modern humans who left Africa 65, 000 years ago, mated with Neanderthals and Denisovans from Europe and Asia.  This interbreeding caused genetic changes, which can still be traced in the DNA of all living humans, and also boosted our immune systems considerably.  Neanderthal and Denisovan immune system-related HLA genes represent half of such DNA in modern European and Asian populations, but only around 7 % of such DNA in modern African populations, which suggests that some modern humans carrying the new genes then returned to Africa much more recently, perhaps around 10,000 years ago.

6.  Ardi


Ardi is the moniker given to the skeletal remains of a female Ardipithecus Ramicus, who lived around 4.4 million years ago.  The oldest known and most complete hominid specimen, Ardi was discovered at Aramis, Ethiopia in 1994.  She stood four feet tall and weighed 50kg, a significantly larger specimen than Lucy.  Her remains suggest that the most recent common ancestor of chimps and humans was more human-like than previously thought, and that her society featured more pair bonding and increased involvement from parents in the lives of their offspring.

5.  Homo Rudolfensis


Discovered by Bernard Ngeneo in 1972 at the east side of  Lake Turkana in Kenya, this skull specimen is around 1.9 million years old, and was first thought to be representative of the Homo Habilis species.  However, its reconstructed characteristics suggested that it was actually an example of a separate contemporary species.

4.  Turkana Boy


This almost-complete skeleton dates back 1.5 million years, was discovered by Kamoya Kimeu near Lake Tirkana in Kenya in 1984, and is the most complete early human skeleton ever unearthed.  Turkana Boy was around eight years old when he met his demise, and is classified as a member of the Homo Erectus or Homo Ergaster species.  At 5’3” tall, he may have reached an impressive 6’1” in adulthood and weighed in at a substantial 68kg.  He would have been capable of running to hunt prey, and had a human-like protruding nose!

3.  Peking Man


Discovered between 1923-1927, this group of Homo Erectus skeletal specimens is dated at almost 800,000 years old, and was discovered by Johann Gunnar Andersson and Walter W. Granger.  The Peking Man remains were classified as Sinanthropus Pekinesis by Canadian Anatomist Davidson Black, but further excavations to the site finished with the Japanese invasion of 1937.  The fossils disappeared in 1941, en route from China to the USA for safekeeping, but parts of another skull were discovered at the site in 1966, and excavations re-started in 2009.

2.  Cheddar Man


Discovered in 1903 in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, these remains date to around 7150 BC, and have a hole in the cranium which suggests that he may have met a gruesome demise.  In 1996 Brian Sykes of Oxford University successfully sequenced the mitochondrial DNA from a sample from Cheddar Man’s tooth and compared it to that of 20 living residents in nearby Cheddar Village.  One match with a single mutation was discovered, as well as two exact matches.  The mutated match was, appropriately enough, a History teacher named Adrian Targett, whilst the exact matches were two unnamed schoolchildren.  All three, in the same area, share a common ancestor in Cheddar Man.

1.  Otzi the Iceman


AKA Simalaun Man, Otzi is actually the well-preserved, naturally mummified remains of an individual who lived 5,300 years ago.  Found in 1991 at the Oztal Alps on the border of Austria and Italy by Helmut and Erika Simon, two German tourists from Nuremberg, Otzi was approximately 45 at the time of his demise.  He stood five-and-a-half feet tall, weighed 50kg, and analysis of the contents of his intestines revealed that his last meal consisted of red deer and herb bread.  He was also found with a copper axe, sported several carbon tattoos, and probably died as a result of a violent confrontation with rival tribesmen.

Written by Jack Coveney

Other Articles you Might Like
Liked it? Take a second to support on Patreon!


  1. Nice to see discovery. I am appreciative of the seeking minds. These pieces of evidence share that many want to know more about our ancestors. This evidence shares that their is old evidence available. I find it easy to ask any that doubt our evolution in life, to please pick up a shovel.

    The obtuse are not assisting in the pursuit of understanding; let them go extinct!

    How many here have contributed their time to enable the next generation an understanding of ‘life’?

  2. Thatoneguyuhate on

    To instinct be of nature, as logic be of self way destruction or peace. Don’t agree? Your or my logic might not up the scales at all, but one thought of evil could spread threwout the world and affect you. History of war, and vengeance shows this is possible today. 9/11 and the world wars are of one thought shared in many by false leadership to desire/hate of others property or way of life. Some people cannot grasp the truth, we are all a bit of evil, and the only breed to declare war upon differences and anger. In what other animal does this reflect? For we (humans)are not in balance with nature, we control the earths faith or destruction. So the greater good will always have defenses against the less morals who then come into fighting for disire at some point eventually in time.. As it has been since the first civilization. Really question yourself in the false reality we live in. If there is extreme evil, what says there isn’t an infinite good. There are two things infinite: mans stupidity and the universe.

  3. Thatoneguyuhate on

    Say what you will, the odds of cultural differences and sessional chage to me would suggest that many completely isolated tribes and cultures would be effected by the evolution from “monkeys”in a form of a radical differences in today races(besides Skin colors). Evolution implies that the body would change into better according to the effects of everyday life over an extended period of time. To me this means that the earliest of man would be very different from one found around the world in another extreme climate dated around the same time.. Logic suggests to me a man in a dessert would form different from tribes in a jungle or Iceland. Each continent has a different surrounding for an inner dweller. Myans, Egyptians,cavemen, and the ones in Iceland still for the most part resemble. And that’s some of the earliest signs of human life that was recorded in any intelligent form. Evolution is not the case, I feel today there would be cultures less able to achieve simple tasks due to the harsher climate there ancestor evolved from. The brain is to overly advanced even in 3rd rate countrys. Nothing else has a logical mind set And the feelings of guilt and compassion in our degree. Or even close. As small as we are in this universe, anything is possible.

    • When you say “a man in a dessert” are you speaking of a bowl of ice cream or chocolate cake? Makes sense to me. At least as much sense as monkeylution.

      • Thatoneguyuhate on

        Lol, Since we are all humans, EVERYONE makes mistakes. From kids to the top scientists. Myself included. Be careful with trusting you fate to theory’s and also to the ones misguided by the bible.
        In no way I’m challenging anyone to there beliefs, they are your present morals. And no one earth should judge you by them. If you dig up the data to the odds of you being alive, on earth and able to read this with your own eyes. Then to think and have your own opinion about what I’m talking about. It’s crazy scary of what the odds are verse you to be nonexisten. Then highly intelligent compared to any other form of life that has ever been observed by science. The mind, personal feelings and thought patterns of every person are truly not explained, but placed into theory’s and overlooked.. May one day can we all be of children again and forever.

  4. I’m not sure numbers 1 and 2 are really discoveries of human evolution in the same categories of the other ones.

  5. Donald Pilliere on

    Oh yeah, number 7: proves they liked the african taste so they came back for some more LOL.

  6. “When I make an incision with my scalpel, I see organs of such intricacy that there simply hasn’t been enough time for natural evolutionary processes to have developed them.”
    (C Everett Koop, former US Surgeon General)

    • That was a doctor back in the early 20th century, back when we were still debating about evolution. It was also before we could more accurately date fossils. The debate is over; evolution is now fact to most of world. We are the product of millions of years trial and error.

      Is it not possible that your God set evolution in motion? I don’t believe in God, but hopefully you realize that God and evolution are not incompatible. If anything, this just proves the prophets failed.

      If God believes I deserve Hell for following this path of science, then I wouldn’t acknowledge him as my god.

      • Well,your right–Dr. Koop was President Reagan’s Surgeon General way,way,way back in the 1980’s.Long before Darwin was born–Long before doctors had any formal education. Why,way back in the 1980’s most people still traveled by horse and buggy. I believe Dr. Koop took a bullet out of Davey Crockett at the Alamo. Koop knew so little that he actually used leeches to “bleed” soldiers during the Civil War. Later on he killed a lot of people by telling them smoking was good for them–So I stand corrected.

        • Alright sorry, I thought he was a Doctor in the 1920’s era; however, that only means he was raised in the era where this subject was one of debate. I digress though; disregard the first two sentences of that comment. You still stand ignorant.

          But since you’re being so facetious and refuse to put forward any evidence yourself, since when does one doctor defy the thousands of others who know evolution is real?

          I will not step down to your level. I can go on for hours about how your religion is built on persistent and outdated beliefs, but I won’t. I am more tolerant to others’ beliefs.

          Please provide some information that is not obnoxiously sarcastic.

        • Please JUST ignore Dennis. If by this day and age evolution is still up for debate in this man’s mind, then nothing any of us can change that.

        • Please JUST ignore Melissa,”the ape woman”–She’s busy peeling and eating bananas-(Genetics you Know)-

  7. Yes, you left out “Piltdown Man”,the greatest discovery of all. This proved evolution beyond a doubt–This was the most…What?…Oh…..Never mind.

  8. Ignoring all the rubbish being posted in the comments previously. This is a terrible list as it has completely ignored the biggest discovery in human evolution. Australopithecus sediba. Some basic research should have led you to information about the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa. Some of the research done at that site has been ground breaking and should have made this list at a canter. Why was it left off?

  9. Or maybe the guy who thinks some omnipotent war god made them from dust, and then took a rib bone out of the man and made women is the freak. Not only is it childish and moronic, but insultingly a misogynist as well. Or maybe you can grow up.

      • Not by someone whose intellect and world view I find laughable and pathetic, no. And I hate to do this to you, since it may cause you much despair, but I feel it’s overdue…There is no such thing as Santa Claus, either. Sorry, but it had to be done.

        • I don’t believe you really understand the depth of my last statement but I’ll stand by that while you continue with your silliness.

        • You give yourself too much credit. Far, far too much.

          By the way, no Easter Bunny, either. Heartbreaking, I know…

        • Get your 8X10 glossy of Betty Boop and go back down in the basement your parents fixed up for you. Because now you don’t exist anymore.

  10. I would think that anyone who believes his ancestor was a one-celled piece of bacteria that crawled out of a slime pit (in other words came from nothing) and later on became a monkey would be the freak.

    • Evolution does not say that humans were once monkeys. It says that humans and monkeys share a common ancestor that was distinct from both.

    • Yo Dennis, you came from slim, a single celled life by the combining of the oooze of your Mother and Father (sperm/egg). What is so scary about what IS REAL?

        • Yo, that is a lie (false witness). We both know that both of us, came from the oooze of mummy and daddy as they were doing the wild thing. Does reality hurt? No, it dont. What makes a person a liar?

        • At least i know who my parents are. Have you ever heard that you are alive and living on the element carbon?

          Carbon-12 is the most predominate isotope, that you are living upon.

          6 electrons, 6 neutrons, 6 protons.

          Guess who just educated you?
          Dont try, because nothing will remove it from your head?

  11. Yeesh…use the word “evolution” and the creationist freaks aren’t far behind.

  12. Yeah,right….Dig up an ape that died 30 years ago and–“Eureka! I have found Bullshiphony Man. He lived 50 billion years ago and ate jello 3 times a day–He lived in what is present day Cleveland after swimming here from Africa. He died of ptomaine poisoning after eating toadstools growing on the shore of Lake Erie.-This very one we have found is actually the one who named Lake Erie after his Aunt Erie Oop-(married to Alley)”—And then here comes the grant money rolling in.

    • Will you share what your lineage was of 50 billion years ago? At least with a comprehension that not every life, that you or any know of, actually came from the cell division-procreation of a previously living organism; all cases.

      Every single human being you know of came from a procreation; all cases.

      Unless of course, you have another answer?!?!?

      • Of course. The universe was a void 50 zillion years ago. Nothing,I mean absolutely nothing was in it. Then one day (actually there weren’t any “days”, I only use the term for scientific reference) a tiny particle of energy named Erwin came floating along whistling “Me And my Shadow”,and minding his own business. Erwin did this for a few zillion years until one day he, inexplicably, started growing. Erwin didn’t know what was happening to him. He just kept expanding. Erwin cried out for help but being a void and all there was nothing to help him. Then it happened. Erwin became so big he exploded. Pieces of Erwin spread out and became the stars and planets and asteroids and moons. More pieces of Erwin fell on this planet and created the forests and oceans and mountains and Pizza Hut and Wally-World and just everything. About a zillion years later a mysterious slime hole appeared. There was nothing in it but slime. It sat there for a billion years or so and suddenly out crawled a one-celled amoeba and Bill Maher. Later on Maher became a douche bag and the one-celled amoeba became us because Burger king needed customers. So there it is. I can’t believe how stupid people are who believe God created everything. That is so far out as to be ridiculous. HaHa, I say. That we all came from nothing starting with Erwin is much more logical and makes total sense. You might ask where Erwin came from. Well, he always was.

        • How about the idea that we are born in between the beginning and ending, and anyone that claims awareness of anything beyond either end are just speculating?

          The big bang or a creation from ‘nothing’ is just speculation as no one has ever been outside of existence to ever provide any proof.

          It easier to KISS.