Ancient Man Louis Leakey's Handyman Homo Habilis Part 2

About the ancient man homo habilis or the handyman according to paleontologist Louis Leakey, history and behavior of this species related to man.


HANDYMAN (Homo habilis)

It is very likely that Homo habilis either evolved from or is a later sample of Australopithecus africanus ("South African apeman"), who first appeared at least 2 million years ago. Then, in South Africa, the wet forests, where vegetables and fruits grew abundantly, were receding; parts of the land became barren, and others turned to savanna. It is possible that A. africanus had been a vegetarian and now had to turn to meat-eating; that the small, fleet members of his group were those who survived because they were better able to hunt. Even so, the australopithecines could not stride as we do, but walked with bent knees.

In the beginning, they probably ran down game. Leakey, who had studied and even personally tried ways of hunting used by primitive people, said, "When you see a hare, it runs straight away and you run straight after it... The ears move all the way back when it's about to dodge, a sharp right or a sharp left. Now if you're right-handed you always dash to the right anticipating a dodge to the right. That means the odds are fifty-fifty.... If you've guessed correctly, the hare runs by instinct directly at you and you can scoop it up like fielding a fast grounder...."

After running down game, they learned to stone or club it, and were scavengers as well, eating the leftovers of other animals. Their diets, then, consisted of ducks, geese, lizards, rodents, tortoises, and young antelopes. Somewhere along already split by nature so that it had a sharp edge--which they needed to cut up tougher game. And from then on, tools became more and more sophisticated until the time of Handyman, who was able to kill large animals with his weapons.

One prevailing theory says that the small, graceful australopithecines were the ancestors of modern humans, that Handyman is a link in that chain. Other discoveries may have proved this wrong: Richard Leakey, the son of Louis and Mary, has found what may be a specimen of Homo erectus that is much older (it dates from about 2.8 million years ago). Since Homo erectus had a bigger brain than Handyman, that means that Handyman may have been a dead end, not in the line at all. Was it possible that manlike creatures of several species and mental capacities were wandering about Africa at the same time?

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