Homo erectus and Homo ergaster
Homo erectus has been nicknamed the ‘hominid traveller’ since it is the first one to go out of Africa at least 1.6 million years ago and settle in Asia and Europe.
Currently, the convention is to call Homo erectus the Asian version and Homo ergaster the African version: those that stayed in Africa, did not leave the continent, and are excellent candidates for being the ancestors of the modern Homo sapiens.
The oldest known specimen of Homo erectus is one found in Kenya, dating 1.8 million years. However, the first known skeleton is the one found in the island of Java in Indonesia by Eugene Dubois in 1891. He nicknamed it the ‘Java Man’ and is much younger: less than 1 million years old. Dubois believed that Homo sapiens had originated in Asia and not in Africa. For that reason, he went looking for traces of the first human beings to Indonesia.
There is another representative specimen of Homo erectus called ‘Peking Man.’ Davidson Black, a Canadian physician, working in China found a skull in 1923, dating 750 thousand years.
Homo erectus is more similar to Homo sapiens than Homo habilis. It has a brain volume of nearly one liter, which is twice the size of a chimpanzee’s brain, and walks in an upright position. The shape of their teeth suggests they were carnivores and the wonderful tools they made leaves no doubt they were excellent hunters.
It is the one of the most successful hominid species that has ever existed on the planet. They lived much longer than the length of time Homo sapiens has been around. They lived for about 2 million years and then disappeared in Asia and Europe around 100 thousand years ago, after having coexisted with the Neanderthals. Some populations of Homo ergaster, the version of Homo erectus that stayed in Africa, are our ancestors who evolved and became Homo sapiens around 250 thousand years ago.