Humans are an incredible species, ultimately responsible for our civilization today. From the first primitive Homo sapiens, to the sophisticated industrial humans of today, our species has changed dramatically over the millennia. But the journey to get here has been long and arduous. In this article, we’ll cover the epic story of the first humans, from the early Australopithecines to Homo sapiens.

Early Evidence of Human Evolution 

The earliest evidence of hominids walking on two feet appeared as early as 4 million years ago, however it’s generally assumed that the pre-human hominids existed much earlier. In order to understand the first humans, it’s important to understand the fossils, archaeological artifacts, and DNA evidence that show the journey of human evolution.

Fossil Evidence 

The oldest hominid fossil found to date is the Ardipithecus ramidus, that existed 4.4 million years ago in Ethiopia. Scientists have uncovered over twenty parts of the skeleton that make up this species, thus making it one of the more intact specimens among ancient hominids.

The fossil of Australopithecus afarensis is another relic from around 3.2 million years ago. The most famous fossil of this species is referred to as “Lucy,” found in Ethiopia. Lucy was about three and a half feet tall and weighed about sixty pounds.

Despite the advancements of these early hominids, they were still mammals and were mainly tree dwellers. Their brains were still quite small, many smaller than modern chimpanzee brains.

Homo Habilis 

From Australopithecus, Homo habilis arose. It took upwards of 1.8 million years for these species to finally come into existence. Homo habilis were the first human species to begin using stone tools and display evidence of fire.

Their brains were larger than other hominids, but still considerably smaller than modern humans. Homo habilis were still quite primitive and in comparison to modern homo sapiens, their behavior was more similar to that of chimpanzees.

Homo Erectus 

Around 1.7 million years ago, Homo erectus began to rise in the hominid family tree. This species was more intelligent than Homo habilis and were able to use more sophisticated stone tools and hunting techniques. Homo erectus were taller, having a range of 5 – 6.7 ft and weighing up to 200 lbs.

Homo erectus had brains that were similar in size to that of modern humans yet their cranial capacity had decreased from Homo habilis. They were the first species of human to migrate out of Africa, their fossils having been found as far as China and Indonesia.


Neanderthals are probably one of the most well known species of human. They were much larger than Homo erectus and had a brain that was almost as large as modern humans. Neanderthals roamed the earth until around 28,000 years ago, when they were most likely wiped out by competition and diseases with Homo sapiens.

Neanderthals were highly advanced in comparison to Homo erectus, having used tools and animal skins to fashion clothing. They even displayed evidence of early symbolic behaviors, associated with their hunting and religious rituals.

Homo Sapiens 

Homo sapiens, meaning “wise man”, have been on the planet for around 200,000-300,000 years. They are the last known species of the genus Homo, with all other species having gone extinct. Homo sapiens are the only surviving species of human, and represent the pinnacle of human evolution.

Homo sapiens have the largest brains among hominids yet they have lighter skeletons than other species, making them the most agile and efficient of all human species. When Homo sapiens first arose, they had already developed language, complex thoughts and art, and eventually the technology we use today.

The evolution of humans has taken millions of years and Homo sapiens have been the most successful species, surviving to this day. Through the study of fossils, archaeological artifacts, and DNA science, humans have been able to uncover the incredible journey of evolution and development that has led our species to where it is today. From primitive Australopithecus to sophisticated Homo sapiens, the epic story of the first humans is an incredible tale of survival and adaptability.