Timothy Chisholm, of Kaikouri Primary School, asks :-

Where did humans come from?

Martin Hanson, the author of Apes and Ancestors II, responded.

Scientists believe that humans, chimpanzees and gorillas are all descended from apes that lived in Africa about 6-7 million years ago, and walked on four legs.

Modern chimpanzees do sometimes walk briefly on two legs, but they are not very good at it. For some reason one group of these early human ancestors began to spend more time on two legs, and gradually their skeletons and muscles began to evolve towards more efficient two-legged walking.

Like chimpanzees, these early ancestors probably used simple tools such as sticks, but it was not until about 2.5 million years ago that they began to use and make stone tools. Until this time the brains of these early ancestors, called Homo habilis, had remained little or no bigger than that of chimpanzees. Making stone tools needs more skill than chimpanzees have, and the brains of these creatures began to enlarge. By 1.5 million years ago Homo habilis had evolved into a larger-brained and taller creature called Homo ergaster. About 1.8 million years ago some Homo ergaster migrated out of Africa and spread to Europe and Asia, where they evolved into a number of different types, for example Homo erectus in Asia and Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis in Europe.

Scientists are not in full agreement as to where or when modern humans, Homo sapiens, originated. Some think that Homo sapiens originated in Africa, and that these people then spread to Europe and Asia, replacing Homo erectus. Others think that Homo erectus evolved directly into Homo sapiens.

Whatever the answer, modern humans began to make much more sophisticated tools about 40,000 years ago and began to develop art such as cave paintings and clay figures. Then, about 12,000 years ago, people began to develop farming, and the rest is history.