10 Homo ergaster and Its Contemporaries

  • Ian Tattersall
Reference work entry


On the basis of their strong morphological differences from the Javan type materials, many authorities now consider the diverse East African fossils initially classified as “African Homo erectus” to be more properly allocable to the species H. ergaster. However, while this separation at the species level of the African and Indonesian hominids is certainly justified, the species H. ergaster as thus constituted still embraces a bewildering morphological variety. Indeed, although this grouping of African fossils seems to form a fairly coherent clade, it also appears quite diverse. The East Turkana type mandible of H. ergaster is matched by other specimens from Kenya and Tanzania, but not by the mandible of the iconic WT 15000 skeleton, and in its turn this specimen fails to match either in its cranial construction or its upper dentition most of the other comparable specimens usually referred to H. ergaster. Clearly there is a need for a systematic reappraisal of the entire “African Homo erectus” = Homo ergaster group; and equally clearly the hominid evolutionary story throughout the Old World in the Early–Middle Pleistocene was more complex than is implied by the extension of the species H. erectus to cover the entire miscellaneous assemblage of hominid fossils from this time period.


Hominid Evolution Hominid Fossil Lower Dentition Olduvai Gorge Nasal Aperture 
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My appreciation goes to Jeff Schwartz, in collaboration with whom many of the notions advanced here were developed, and who kindly provided Figures 10.2 10.4 . Ken Mowbray furnished the scan reproduced in Figure 10.1 . David Lordkipanize kindly gave permission for the images reproduced in Figures 10.5 10.7 , and Thorolf Hardt prepared them for publication here. Thank you all.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2007

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  • Ian Tattersall

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