Examining The Evidence
Close examination of hominid fossils can reveal more than who our ancestors were and where and when they lived. Experts study fossils to learn about how ancient peoples lived--and even how they died.
Walk This Way
Modern humans are bipeds--that is, we walk on two feet. And chimpanzees are quadrupeds: they walk on four.
Modern human and Neanderthal feet are arched from the ball to the heel; this distributes body weight over the sole of the foot while standing. Further, this "longitudinal" arch acts as a shock absorber during walking and running as the weight is transferred from the heel to the toe.
We can only eat what we can chew! The teeth of our ancient ancestors are often good indicators of their diets.
Scratching the Surface
Under a scanning electron microscope, the teeth of Australopithecus africanus are lightly scratched while those of Paranthropus robustus are heavily pitted and gouged. That's because Paranthropus ate harder, tougher foods than Australopithecus.
Predator or Prey?
Most early hominids were smaller than modern humans. They probably hunted small animals and scavenged the remains of larger ones. At the same time they were also the hunted!
Hungry For Hominids?
The canine teeth of a fossil leopard fit perfectly into the paired openings on the hominid skullcap. Likewise, small marks on the fossil foot indicate that its toes were bitten off by a scavenger. These hominids, at least, were the victims of stronger, bigger animals.