Creation Studies Institute
Ape to Man

The Ancestry of Man from Homo habilis to Homo floresiensis 

In order to understand how human beings fit into the evolutionary timescale, we need to understand the fundamental teachings of Darwinian evolution concerning man. It is a basic tenant of evolutionary science that Homo sapiens, e.g. true man, are the descendants of the great apes. Darwinian evolution believes that the ancestors of humans diverged from the Australopithecines 2.3 to 2.4 million years ago (McHenry 2009).  

The designation “Homo” refers to the Genus of a group of fossils that have been determined to be in the same general category of modern man, e.g. Homo sapiens. There are several species of hominids.  A hominid is any member of the biological family Hominidae, e.g. the great apes, including the extinct and extant or still existing, humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. This classification is in flux and has been revised several times in the last few decades. These assorted revisions have led to a varied use of the word “hominid.” The original meaning of Hominidae referred only to the modern meaning of Hominina, e.g. only humans and their closest relatives. The meaning of the taxon changed gradually, leading to the modern meaning of "hominid," which includes all great apes. 

So we have the following designations made up of fossils that have been placed into the evolutionary paradigm. They span ancient history according to Darwin beginning as follows: 

Comparative table of Homo species in the Evolutionary Timescale 

    Homo habilis- 2.4 to 1.4 million years ago (Ma)

    Homo rudolfensis and Homo georgicus – 1.9 to 1.6 Ma

    Homo ergaster and Homo erectus – 1.8 Ma to 70 thousand years ago (ka)

    Homo cepranensis and Homo antecessor- 1.2 to 500 ka

    Homo heidelbergensis – 800 ka to 300 ka

    Homo rhodesiensis and the Gawis cranium 300 ka to 125 ka

    Homo neanderthalensis 400 ka to 30 ka

    Homo sapiens – 250 ka to present

    Homo floresiensis – 100 ka to 12 ka

This table indicates that a total of eight species of the Genus Homo exist according to evolutionary science. All but Homo sapiens are alleged to be extinct today. When the fossil evidence is examined carefully, and the tendency to claim special status for each of these fossils is factored in, the interpretation of this data can and should be challenged. Going one by one down this evolutionary path, let us look at some of the actual evidence and the statements made concerning them by leading paleoanthropologists and evolutionary scientists.

Homo habilis, e.g. “Handy man”, is the earliest of the ancestors to modern man that has been classified in the Genus Homo. Remember that evolutionary science places this Genus in the family tree of the great apes including the most recent candidate for the missing link between man and monkey, the elder stateswoman of the australopithecines, Ardipithecus ramidus, or as we have come to know her as Ardi. This particular discovery is traced back to Mary and Louis Leakey and their son John. From 1961 to 1964 the Leakeys unearthed fossils of Homo habilis, the oldest known primate with allegedly human characteristics and discovered yet another species in 1967 called Kenyapithecus africanus. The Leakey’s claimed that Homo habilis had walked upright. “Until then the idea that two hominids could occupy the same area at the same time had been unacceptable to most scientists,” Mary Leakey wrote in Disclosing the Past (Leakey 1984). 

So what has science been able to ascertain in the years since the Leakey’s discovery concerning Homo habilis? Some scientists have proposed moving this species out of Homo and into Australopithecus due to the morphology of its skeleton being more adapted to living on trees rather than to moving on two legs like Homo sapiens (Wood & Collard 1999). “A picture is worth a thousand words” is a wise saying attributed to the likes of Confucius and Napoleon Bonaparte, neither of whom can be proven to have ever uttered those words. Here is a likeness of Homo habilis. See if you see any resemblance to modern man.

Homo Habilis
Homo Habilis


The use of primitive tools and the greater cranial capacity, e.g. 680-800 cm³ greater than the Australopithecines but approximately ½ the size of Homo sapiens, Homo habilis was placed firmly into the Genus Homo. The fact that ancient and modern apes, chimpanzees, etc., have been seen using primitive tools does not seem to bother those who defend the placement of this species in the same general category as man. 

The use of tools in the wild by chimpanzees has been observed and well established for some time now and in fact, recently chimps have also been observed successfully hunting lemurs with crude yet self-crafted spears. On the other hand, tool use by gorillas in the wild has been little observed and certainly not to the same extent or sophistication as their more rambunctious cousins, the chimpanzee. So then, do these observations lay to rest once and for all the age old quandary about "which species of ape is second to man in intelligence” (Kiwanuka 2007) In attempting to identify once and for all which branch on the hominid tree gave rise to modern man, Dr. Kiwanuka has illustrated yet another evidence of stasis among the primates.  

Tool use can be diagnostic of intelligence, and it is often used to justify the inclusion of the more primitive hominids with modern man, however, tool use is not at all limited to the hominids. Dolphins are capable of using seaweed to disguise themselves in kelp beds and to close off their prey’s escape routes. Other studies have shown that they use algae for decoration in order to attract mates (Desaulniers 2009).   

Scientists have observed a dolphin coaxing a reluctant moray eel out of its crevice by killing a scorpion fish and using its spiny body to poke at the eel. Off the western coast of Australia, bottlenose dolphins place sponges over their snouts, which protects them from the spines of stonefish and stingrays as they forage over shallow sea beds (De Rohan 2003).  

While the ability of beavers to build highly functional dams and birds to build nests are usually chalked up to instinct rather than intelligence, most people know sea otters use tools to get to their food, making use of rocks or even shellfish. Yet, even without an opposable thumb or specialized hands like humans, sea otters manage pretty well with tools for this task—perhaps better than most people can do with the same tool (Chandler 2005). 

This brings us to the next in a long line of alleged ape-to-human evolution Homo rudolfensis and Homo georgicus. H. rudolfensis refers to a single, incomplete skull from Kenya. This fossil was originally discovered by Bernard Ngeneo, a member of a team led by anthropologist Richard Leakey and zoologist Meave Leakey in 1972, at Koobi Fora on the east side of Lake Rudolf (now Lake Turkana) in Kenya. The scientific name Homo rudolfensis was proposed in 1986 by V. P. Alekseyev for the specimen Skull 1470 (KNM ER 1470). Skull 1470 has an estimated age of 1.9 million years. Scientists have suggested that this was another H. habilis, but this has not been confirmed (Wood 1999). H. georgicus, from Georgia, may be an intermediate form between H. habilis and H. erectus Gabounia et al. 2002) or a sub-species of H. erectus (Lordkipanidze et al. 2006). 

The fact that modern evolutionary experts are unable to agree exactly where there particular fossils belong in the ape-to-man continuum seems not to concern them much; however, those of us who question the overall paradigm of Darwinism want to know why they were placed in the Genus Homo to begin. This is an especially important question since both H. rudolfensis and H. georgicus appear to be completely indistinguishable from the great apes. 

A comparison of H. habilis with its alleged descendent, H. rudolfensis revealed that the Homo habilis brains measured only 450, 500, and 600 cm3; overlapping Australopithecus, while Homo rudolfensis were strikingly larger, from 700 to 900 cc (Mayr 2001). Ironically a finding of a specimen now assigned as H. rudolfensis (KNM ER 1470), but then considered H. habilis, is credited with leading to acceptance of habilis as a distinct species (Smithsonian NMNH 2007). 

As in the case of H. habilis, there is large amount of controversy about the classification of H. rudolfensis into the Homo genus. Although no reliably associated postcranial remains have been discovered for H. rudolfensis, it is thought that — like H. habilis — H. rudolfensis lacked many of the features unique to later hominids (that is, creatures that include humans and their ancestors), such as slim hips for walking upright for long distances, a sophisticated sweating system, narrow birth canal, legs longer than arms, noticeable whites in the eyes, smaller hairs resulting in naked appearance and exposed skins, etc.  

Then, in March 2007, a team led by Timothy Bromage, an anthropologist at New York University, reconstructed the skull of KNM-ER 1470. The new construction looked very ape-like (emphasis added), possibly due to an exaggerated rotation of the skull (Hawks 2007) and the cranial capacity based on the new construction was reported to be downsized from 752 cm³ to about 526 cm³, although this seemed to be a matter of some controversy (Than 2007). Bromage published his results in 2008 where the cranial capacity was now estimated at 700cm³ (Bromage et al. 2008).  Bromage said his team’s reconstruction included biological principles not known at the time of the skull’s discovery, which state that a mammal’s eyes, ears and mouth must be in precise relationships relative to one another (Than 2007). 

When one takes into consideration that H. rudolfensis and his close relative, Homo georgicus, are described as being “very ape-like” with a downsized cranial capacity identical with that of the gorillas, what are we to conclude? Perhaps we are not looking at the ancestors of man at all but rather a family of now extinct apes.  

This brings us to Homo ergaster and Homo erectus. H. ergaster is now considered a sub-species of H. erectus or a separate species altogether. For this reason we will examine H. erectus as our next candidate in the human evolutionary ladder. Homo erectus is Latin for “upright man” and  researchers have identified fossils that come from East Africa, Ethiopia, Indonesia, China, the Caucasus, and elsewhere in Eurasia as remains of Homo erectus. Depending on the definition of species, a term that from Darwin to today has eluded a definitive explanation, H erectus is considered to be either a direct ancestor of modern humans, or a separate species which co-existed with the distinct Homo neanderthalensis and a third branch which is thought to be a direct ancestor of modern humans (Heng 2009).  

It is with the categorization of H. erectus that we see how these fossil discoveries are interpreted to fit into the evolutionary paradigm. Even though the cranial capacity of this alleged ancestor to  modern man is slightly larger than modern man’s cranial capacity, evolutionary scientists have consistently influenced the artists who reconstruct and illustrate these fossil specimens.

Homo Erectus
Homo Erectus


One can easily see that artist’s conceptions can vary depending on how the fossils are described by those who evaluate them. Much of what is depicted becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when evolutionary scholars attempt to visualize their own interpretation of the fossil evidence.  

When brain size is used as an indicator of intelligence, we can easily find ourselves underestimating or overestimating the intelligence of the hominids. There is a now extinct species of Homo sapiens known as Homo floresiensis, Latin for Flores man. H. floresiensis was nicknamed the Hobbit due to the short stature of these men and women.  

Discovered relatively recently by anthropologists Peter Brown, Michael Morwood and their colleagues, they have argued that a variety of features, both primitive and derived, identified the skeleton of LB1 as that of a new species, H. floresiensis, of the Hominini tribe that currently comprises humans (Homo) and two species of chimpanzee (Pan), their ancestors, and the extinct lineages of their common ancestor (Brown et al. 2004) (Morwood et. al. 2004). They argued that Flores man lived contemporaneously with modern humans (Homo sapiens) on Flores. 

The reality that H. floresiensis, with a brain capacity falling somewhere in between an orangutan and a chimpanzee, presents numerous problems for evolutionary scientists. The type specimen, at 380 cm³ is at the lower range of chimpanzees or the extinct australopithecines. The brain is reduced considerably relative to this species' presumed immediate ancestor H. erectus, which at 980 cm³ had more than double the brain volume of its alleged descendant species (Falk et al. 2005). 

The discoverers have associated H. floresiensis with advanced behaviors. There is evidence of the use of fire for cooking in Liang Bua cave, and evidence of cut marks on the Stegodon bones associated with the finds (Morwood et al. 2004) (Falk et al. 2005). The species has also been associated with stone tools of the sophisticated Upper Paleolithic tradition typically associated with modern humans, who average approximately 1350 cm³ is nearly quadruple the brain volume of H. floresiensis. Some of these tools were apparently used in the necessarily cooperative hunting of local dwarf Stegodon by this small human species (Falk et al. 2005). 

After a lengthy and oft-times heated debate as to the status of H. floresiensis, e.g. an extinct vertically challenged Homo sapien or the fossil remnants of a person suffering from microencephalopathy, most of the evidence shows these creatures to have been fully human albeit of very small stature. 

So, considerations of brain size aside, H. erectus must stand or fall in the category of human evolution on its own merits. But why is H. erectus such an important category for evolutionary scientists? The answer is that H. erectus bridges the gap between the australopithecines (which everyone recognizes as non-human) and the early Homo sapiens and Neanderthal fossils (which are truly human) (Lubenow 2004). 

This brings us to the relatively new kids on the evolutionary block, Homo cepranensis and Homo antecessor. Both fossil specimens were discovered in 1994. The H. cepranensis fossil consisted of one skullcap and the best representative fossil of H. antecessor was the mandible of an alleged 10 year old boy. 

These alleged ancestors of the human race are described as being 5½ to 6 feet tall and weighing approximately 200 lbs. The brain capacity of this group is slightly smaller than the average modern man, e.g. average size of 1350 cm³ H. cepranensis and H. antecessor compared to modern man with an average size of 1075 cm³ .   

The bottom line indicates that there is not enough material to make a complete analysis of H. cepranensis, e.g. one single skull cap. Everything we know about H. antecessor based on teeth eruption pattern, remember, this discovery is based completely on a fossil mandible, researchers think that Homo antecessor had the same development stages as Homo sapiens, though probably at a faster pace. This hypothesis is based on tomography techniques. According to the lead paleontologist on the excavation site for H. antecessor, Dr. Juan Luis Arsuaga, the frequency range of audition is similar to H. sapiens' which makes him believe that H. antecessor used a symbolic language and was able to reason (Arsuaga 2006). 

I find it extremely interesting that H. antecessor is now being lumped together with the Neanderthals, leaving the lone skullcap of H. cepranensis to represent this new category all by itself. Just in case you were wondering about the fate of H. cepranensis, it seems that our lone skullcap may just be a sub-species of H. Erectus and nothing more. 

The next in line is Homo heidelbergensis. H. heidelbergensis, e.g. “Heidelberg man”, named after the University of Heidelberg, is an extinct species of the genus Homo which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo sapiens (Mounier et al. 2009). Homo heidelbergensis is thought to have likely descended from the morphologically very similar Homo ergaster from Africa. But because H. heidelbergensis had a larger brain-case — with a typical cranial volume of 1100-1400 cm³ overlapping the 1350 cm³ average of modern humans — and had more advanced tools and behavior, it has been given a separate species classification (Mounier 2009). 

Both H. antecessor and H. heidelbergensis are described as descending from the morphologically very similar Homo ergaster from Africa. H. heidelbergensis had a larger brain-case, with a typical cranial volume of 1100-1400 cm³ overlapping the 1350 cm³ average of modern humans. They are described as having more advanced tools and behavior and on average were 6 feet tall.  

It should be understood that soft tissue rarely becomes fossilized and the muscularity of any of these alleged precursors to modern man is at best inferred from nuances in bone structure, etc., making this and many other imaginative pronouncements somewhat hypothetical in nature. The actual description of both H. antecessor and H. heidelbergensis, e.g. advanced tools, behavior, cranial capacities consistent with modern man, indicate that these fossils were completely human. 

This brings us to one of the most famous and well documented of the fossil hominids, the Neanderthal (also spelled Neandertal) is an allegedly extinct member of the Homo genus that is known from Pleistocene specimens found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia. I say allegedly because the timeline Neanderthals are either classified as a subspecies of humans, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, or as a separate species, Homo neanderthalensis (Tattersal and Schwartz 1999).

As is the case with many of these so-called proto-humans, Neanderthals have been re-dated to between 32,000 and 30,000 years ago. The comparison of Neanderthals with Homo sapiens show them as having overlapping cranial capacities, e.g. Neanderthal average brain size is slightly larger than that of modern humans approximately 1450 cm³. A 2007 study suggested some Neanderthals may have had red hair and pale skin color (Laleuza-Fox et al. 2007) (Rincon 2007).   

Compared to Europeans some 20,000 years ago, Neanderthals are nearly identical, perhaps slightly taller. Considering the body type of Neanderthals, new body weight estimates show they are only slightly above the cm/weight or the body mass index of modern Americans or Canadians (Helmuth 1998). Couple this with the fact that some Neanderthal remains in fact date after these same sites were vacated by Homo sapiens, and we are hard-pressed to see them as anything other than completely human.   

Neanderthal Child
Neanderthal Child


Culturally, Neanderthal was fully human (Appenzeller 1998). He buried his dead with distinct mortuary practices associated with their burial sites. He drew paintings on cave walls. He used fire and tools. He played the flute. He allegedly worshipped bears. He was thought to be cannibalistic but was most assuredly the apex predator of his environment. He cared for the injured and elderly. In essence he did the things that other humans have done down through history. 

The truth about the Neanderthals is yet another example of the fanciful and imaginary treatment that characterizes most of those involved in presenting Darwinian evolution as fact. There can be no doubt that aside from the evidence that Neanderthals were completely human, there has been a concerted effort to give us the impression that Neanderthals are something other than completely human.  

This brings us to modern man, Homo sapiens, e.g. Latin for “wise man.” We need to be very clear about this particular presentation. It is apparent that all of those species enumerated in this article have been placed into the evolutionary paradigm. Every fossil, every so-called link in the human branch on the phylogenetic tree of evolution, is placed there in order to tell a story. This is the story of man’s development from the alleged prehistoric primates when the Genus Homo, diverged from the Australopithecines allegedly 2.3 to 2.4 million years ago. It is told with great confidence so that the uninformed and the easily persuaded will just accept this particular “just so” story of man’s place in the evolutionary continuum without question.  

There is, however, an alternative case that can be made concerning the evidence presented.  Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis and Homo georgicus, are all apes, completely unrelated to Homo sapiens. Homo ergaster and Homo erectus,  Homo cepranensis and Homo antecessor, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo rhodesiensis, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens and now extinct Homo floresiensis were all fully human without any evolutionary connection to the other allegedly earlier fossil specimens.   

As we have noted previously, one of the ways that science has estimated intelligence is brain size. This is a generally reliable and easily measured statistic among hominids. The following figures are mean values generated from varying size samples of both female and male specimens of the various great apes: Humans: 1400 cm3; Gorillas: 500 cm3; Chimpanzee: 405 cm3; Orangutan: 355 cm3; Gibbons: 104 cm3. From these figures you can see that the brain volume of the human being is almost 3x the size of the nearest contender, the gorilla. With regards to those figures, what is of particular note is that the cranial capacity of the gorilla apparently exceeds that of the chimpanzee; yet all observed evidence tends to indicate that the chimpanzee is more intelligent than the gorilla (Kiwanuka 2007). 

 The True Designations of the Fossil Evidence & Comparative Brain Size 

     H. habilis- Specie of great ape with a cranial capacity = 450-600 cm3

    * H. rudolfensis and H. georgicus - Specie of great ape with a cranial capacity = 526-752 cm3   

    (Distinct anatomic and developmental differences separate these two groups) 

    H. ergaster and H. erectus – Human with a cranial capacity of 750-1300 cm3 

    H. cepranensis and H. antecessor – Human with a cranial capacity of 750 to 1250 cm3

    H. heidelbergensis - Human with a cranial capacity of 1100 to 1400 cm3

    H. rhodesiensis - Human with a cranial capacity of 1200 to 1400 cm3

    H. neanderthalensis - Human with a cranial capacity of 1200 to 1750 cm3

    H. sapiens - Human with a cranial capacity of 750 to 1250 cm3

*  H. floresiensis - Human with a cranial capacity of 375-550 cm3 

Most of the physical and anthropological evidence from the excavation sites e.g. tool use, burial ceremonies, use of language, benevolence towards the old and infirm, etc., combined with the relative cranial capacities of the fossil remains, leaves no doubt concerning the data. While the disciples of Darwin continue to believe that there is an evolutionary connection between the great apes, e.g. H. habilis, H. rudolfensis, H. georgicus and the australopithecines they claim predate them, the evidence can best be explained by the biblical model, e.g. apes remain apes and humans remain human.  

All living organisms are genetically pre-programmed by their Creator to reproduce after their own kind. That is the expression found in the book of Genesis and it best describes how organisms successfully reproduce in vivo. If the evidence tells us anything, it is that there are distinct developmental and anatomical differences between the primates and man. Similarities in outward appearances can indeed be deceiving; especially when evolution’s materialistic and naturalistic worldview is driving all the conclusions and suppressing any explanations that may be contrary to that worldview.

The alternate explanation for all things Darwin is the Bible. It is the only evidence that comes close to an eye-witness account describing the creation of the universe and all that is contained therein. Even though is has become fashionable in modern times to ridicule those who embrace the Hebrew Scriptures as the definitive Word of God, everything that is described in the Genesis account is compatible with what we can observe around us today and what is clearly evidenced in the fossil record. Every living organism reproduces after its own kind and living organisms appear abruptly in the fossil record, fully formed. This corresponds to the fact that the Creator and Designer of life, the God of the Bible, invented the genetic code using DNA to insure that life would continue to be fruitful and multiply.  

The vast differences between human beings and the great apes and chimpanzees only serve to confirm the biblical account, e.g. that man was created in the image of God and is fundamentally and entirely different and distinct from all other living things. God’s Word alone provides us with the truth concerning our origins. We do ourselves and our fellow man a disservice when we tell them fanciful stories concerning the evolution of man and exclude the truth about our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  

*   NOTE: Based on the most recent evaluations, I have included both the down-sized evaluation of 526 cm3 as well as the previously higher evaluation of 752 cm3 because of the disagreement within the evolutionary scientific community (Than 2007).  

*  H. floresiensis is a discovery that has generated considerable dispute in the scientific community.

Some experts deny that this is a separate species of human and others remain convinced that these were fully human albeit of very small stature. The real difficulty is because of the relatively small cranial capacity that some believe is far too small to be considered closely related to homo sapiens whose cranial capacity is between 750 to 1250 cm3.  


Dig Deeper: Recommended Resources


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