Chapter Twenty-eight — The Mysterious Biped
A Short History of Nearly Everything – by Bill Bryson
Chapter 28 — The Mysterious Biped
- The name and credit for the discovery of the first early human went to the Neander Valley in Germany. It was an uncanny coincidence that Neander in Greek means “new man”.
- There is a great shortage of evidence regarding early humans. Since the dawn of time, several billion humans or human-like beings have lived. Out of this vast number, the whole of our understanding of human pre-history is based on the fragmentary remains of about 5,000 individuals. All of this evidence could fit comfortably into the back of a pickup truck.
- For the first 99.99999% of our human history, we were in the same ancestral line as chimpanzees. Virtually nothing is known about the pre-history of chimpanzees. Then about 7 million years ago, a group of new beings emerged from the tropical forests of Africa and began to move about.
- Between 2 and 3 million years ago, it appears there may have been as many as 6 hominid groups coexisting in Africa. Only one was fated to last, and that was the Homo group.
- The Homo line begins with Homo habilis, about whom we know very little, and ends with Homo sapiens (literally “man the thinker”).
- Human brains are demanding. They make up only 2% of the body’s mass, but devour 20% of its energy. The brain is energized by glucose, and lots of it.
- For a time, Homo erectus was the only hominid species on Earth. This species was adventurous and spread across the globe with rapidity.
- Humans today are 98.4 genetically indistinguishable from the modern chimpanzee. There is more difference between a zebra and a horse, or between a dolphin and a porpoise, that there is between us and a furry chimp.
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