This research examines the literature on the hominids, also popularly known as the great apes. According the literature, hominid species encompasses families of the gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and the mighty humans. However, it strictly refers to the extinct species of the Homo sapiens with respect to human. Further, the literature makes a great insight into the divergent journey historically taken that led to the current categorizations. These categories continue to change till this date as anthropologists make more archaeological discoveries into this area. The most recent discovery took place in the year 2001 where a million year old skull fossil was discovered in Chad, Africa. (Andrew Hill and Steven Ward, 1988)
A Review of the Hominids
The historical question of divergence that occurred between the chimpanzees and the early humans has been the hottest subject in the recent past. Re-known researchers in this area, like Erick Lander, have proposed that this divergence was caused by a swap in genes that occurred over time as a result of interbreeding before the final separation. Several studies have looked at the genetic differences that exist between the human and the chimpanzee by comparing the age of key sections of the DNA sequences of the modern chimp and that of the modern human. Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M). The findings have been quite baffling as there is an age difference in various genetic sections within the span of the last 4 million years. This has been interpreted to mean that the eventual divergence occurred gradually over time leading to the current separation. (Andy, 1995)
On the other hand, an alternative explanation that roots for the idea that Homo sapiens broke away from a common ancestry with orangutans has been taking centre stage. This is something that is said to have taken place as early as 13 million years ago. This explanation hold valid due to the fact that humans and the orangutan share several features starting from their dental structure, single incisive foramen, shoulder blade structure and high estriol production.
However, the features shared between humans and chimpanzees are quite very limited. However, anthropologists have warned that these common features are likely to be misleading as to the actual genetic similarities. (Hill & Ward, 1988). According to the anthropologists, the most likely event is that the orangutan species must have undergone a greater extent of genetic alteration than have the human species since they broke away from their common ancestry. This explains the popular belief that the apparent sharing of same genetic patterns does not necessarily mean a close genetic relationship between the two species. Besides, this could serve as a possible explanation to the fact that early hominids like the austrolopiths look less like the African ape and almost share everything with the orangutans including the zygomatic roots and the structure of the posterior palate. (Hill & Ward, 1988)
A significant progress has been marked in the subject of categorization of the hominids in the recent past. This has been due to an attempt to review and possibly redefine the term hominid that initially limited to the humans and their close relatives. As a matter of fact, the term currently refers broadly to all the great apes as well as human beings. In light of this, extensive studies have been carried out about hominids with the main focus being on the comprehension of the complex relation that exists between the modern man and certain species of extant hominids. The extant members of these groups are generally agreed to be the Gigantopithecus, the Kenyanthropus and the Austrolopithecus among others. (Kelley, 1994)
However, the question of the chimpanzee being a member of this group has not been clear although the categorization has encompassed of all the organisms that share slightly more than 97% of their genetic material with the human genome. Besides, the organisms display some capacity for developing a definite culture as well as language. According to archaeologists involved in this categorization, the hominids are generally considered to acquire this art at around the age of four years especially with respect to the “theory of mind”. The complications related to this exercise remain quite unlimited with the obvious one being the inability to test whether early man including the Homo erectus had this theory of mind. (Kelley, 1994) Nonetheless, this has not stopped archaeologists from pressing on. Indeed, there is a general concession that the orangutans had some organized culture and that the lifestyle of the chimpanzee tends to the same conclusion. Meanwhile, these kind of healthy scientific debates continue to dominate the social as well as the political scenes. ( Andy, 1995)
The study of the hominids has been long and treacherous. For instance, Charles Darwin in his book “The Decent Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex” of 1871 suggests a possibility that the early human and the subsequent species in the immediate lineage resided in the African continent. The basis of his argument was the fact it’s only in Africa where the humans, gorillas and the chimps still had a closely related lifestyles. (Brunet, Michel; Guy, Pilbeam, Taisso, 2002). He eventually concluded that humans must be having a common ancestry with the apes, a view that was rejected on technicality grounds. According to the group of scientists with an opposing view, the human ancestry was only connected to the Neandertals of the European continent. While this could have some bearing, it was majorly seen as a bias towards Africa. The history has no doubt been quite controversial over the years. However, all archaeological facts point to the fact that the early man originated from the African continent. (Kelley, 1994)