Human Origins

How did we end up here with over 7 billion of us straining the plant to its limits?

Human Origins provides a richly illustrated and comprehensive narrative of our deep past – tracing out the major events from the big bang to the present with an emphasis on the last million years.

The latest evidence from fossil bones, stone tools, artefacts and ancient DNA reveals how diet, past climate and landscape shaped many of the features that make us human.

West Coast

First published 2016 by Earthspun Books
© 2021 John S. Compton All rights reserved.


Human Origins – Table of Contents

1 Abiotic to animal

In the beginning – Planet Earth – First life – Microbial world – Algal world – Animal world

2 Endless forms most beautiful

The Cambrian explosion – Darwin’s theory – Your inner fish – Onto dry land – Age of reptiles – First mammals
Age of mammals – Primates – Apes

3 Breaking human

Walking on two legs – The australopiths
Stone tools – First humans – A big brain – Control of fire – Bodies forged by fire – Behaviours forged by fire – The Acheulean brand – Out of Africa

4 Out of an unsettled world

An unsettled world – Homo erectus evolves – Thrusting spears – Can we talk? – Out of Africa II – Our predecessor – Javelins – Colour me red

5 African cradle

ETA – A new species – Where did we evolve? – Regions of origin – Northern tip of Africa – Southern tip of Africa – African interior – A complex speciation – Engine rooms of our evolution

6 Seafood and our speciation

The first thousand days – The seafood diet – A love of salt and a need for iodine – The oldest seafood supper – A speciation scenario – Behaving modern – Mind the gap

7 Our long, slow cultural evolution

The rise of symbolism – Cultural preferences – Written symbols – Selecting for symbolism – Selecting for skilful hunters Techno-complexes of southern Africa – Microliths and the bow and arrow – Modern hunter-gatherers emerge

8 Conquering the world

Africa uncorked – A passage out
Ancient reunions – The Great Expansion
To the east – Into Europe –
The Americas – African roots –
Stone Age cultures

9 Our dominion

Before farming – The first farmers
Farmers disperse – Civilizations
The Industrial Revolution –
The human superorganism

10 A species with a future and a past

Inevitable or lucky? – Life’s complexity – A big, complex brain – Where to from here? – Future world

Chapter excerpts: click photo to download pdf