It took man another 200,000 years to grow
up. Homo erectus man was about the same size as modern humans, although
they only had two-thirds the size of our brains. Their tool-making
skills were considerably improved. Their weapons included stone axes and
knives. Homo erectus man was probably the first
early people learned to make fire!
They were probably a
bit startled when they saw what they had created, little knowing
that the invention of fire would change life dramatically!
Why was the
ability to able to make fire so important?
They could choose where they camped. They no longer had to shelter
out of the wind, unless they chose to do so. If their fire went
out, they could relight it. On a hot night, if they could find a
relatively safe place, a breeze might feel good.
of fire made moving into colder regions possible, as fire they
could count on would provide them with warmth.
from Animals: As man had already discovered, most
animals were afraid of fire, so a roaring campfire gave protection
to the group or tribe.
from Disease: It also changed the way they prepared
food. These people began to cook their food consistently. Food
that is cooked is more secure from disease and much softer to eat.
As a result, it would have been easier for the young and the old
Life: Thanks to their fire-making skills, a nightly
campfire became a possibility and a routine. What was once comfort
and safety, was now also a social occasion. People collected
around the fire each night to share stories of the day's hunt and
activities, to laugh, and to relax.
The Homo erectus species was the first to look like....people,
because their teeth and jaws were shaped somewhat like ours our
You might think this change in
appearance happened over time because they cooked their food.
But, according to Anthropologist,
Dr. John J. Shea, that's not true at all. Dr. Shea
told us: "The reduction of teeth and jaws due to cooking is a
popular idea, but not evolutionarily plausible. If you relax
selective pressure for massive jaws--say by cooking food--you get
greater variability, not reduced robusticity. Jaw reduction
probably had something to do with changes in respiration, maybe
speech." (In other words, they looked far more like people do
today because that's just how they looked!)
About one million years ago, these people began to
slowly leave Africa and travel to other continents. They did not
need a boat. The Ice Age was here! For a very long time, the earth
was frozen, creating giant walkways, which were natural bridges of
solid, frozen ice and land. These "walkways" allowed
them to travel over what would later be vast rivers and seas.
Some of the walkways were a hundred miles wide! These early people
wandered from Africa to Europe and Asia, and from Asia to America,
probably in search of food.
How do we know
so much about Homo Erectus?
Like the discovery
of Lucy, scientists found another skeleton near
Peking, China, that dates to this period. This skeleton is
referred to as the "Peking Man".
Artifacts have also been found of
their tools and weapons, which help us to understand how they
lived, where they went, and how they got there.