Can You Crush This Test on the History of Homo Sapiens?

John Miller

What does "homo sapiens" mean, anyway?

Homo sapiens is (for the moment) the planet's most powerful species. "Homo sapiens" means "wise man."

All homo sapiens evolved from one region. Which region is it?

Homo sapiens -- humans -- all evolved from the same central location. And that location? Iowa. Just kidding, it was Africa.

Homo sapiens is an ancient race that emerged when?

In geological terms, homo sapiens are younguns. The species goes back about 300,000 years to Africa.

Compared to earlier humans, modern humans have very large … what?

Zombies everywhere are drooling at their good fortune. Modern humans have very large brains, especially compared to those of their ancestors.

What was one obvious visual characteristic of early humans?

Early homo sapiens had very, very prominent brow lines. That heavy, bony brow is still regarded as a giveaway to these first humans.

Who was the first scientist to formally describe homo sapiens?

In 1758, Carolus Linnaeus became the first person to describe homo sapiens as such. He was rather bold for his era, using the same taxonomic system meant for the animal kingdom applying it to humans.

Currently, scientists believe that homo sapiens split (in evolutionary terms) from apes how long ago?

The number keeps shifting as scientists alter their technologies. But right now, they think that the evolution of homo sapiens split from apes roughly 7 million years ago.

"Terrestrial bipedalism" is one hallmark of homo sapiens. What does that mean?

Homo sapiens is the only species that walks upright on two legs. "Terrestrial bipedalism" is indeed one of the species' most important traits.

What incredible capability did homo sapiens develop about 12,000 years ago?

It was just around 12,000 years ago that homo sapiens began to use agriculture to harness their environment to create food. Since then, farming has become an incredibly vital source of nutrition.

What were the first tools that human ancestors developed?

No one is sure exactly which species of our ancestors created the first tools. But it seems that about 3 million years ago, primitive humans were using basic hammers to accomplish day-to-day tasks.

Where were the oldest known remains of homo sapiens found?

The discovery literally flipped the Africa script. In 2017, homo sapiens remains found in Morocco, on the west coast of Africa, made it clear that our species didn't necessarily arise in eastern Africa, the place most scientists placed our origins.

What was the area of the modern Sahara Desert like hundreds of thousands of years ago?

These days, you'd never know it, but hundreds of thousands of years ago the Sahara Desert was a green and wonderful place for life of all kinds. The region helped our ancestors reproduce and spread all over the continent and eventually, the world.

What food-finding tool did homo sapiens develop about 90,000 years ago?

About 90,000 years ago, homo sapiens began to make and use very simple fishing tools. Since then, Babe Winkelman will prove to you that we've come a long, long ways.

What are Denisovans?

There's very little fossil record (so far) of the Denisovans. But they were an early version of humans that overlapped with both Neanderthals and homo sapiens.

What sort of foods did our ancestors consume?

Once homo sapiens began creating simple tools, the real feasting began. These upright walkers could suddenly kill and dismember all sorts of animals in addition to gorging on various plant life.

When did early humans first master fire?

In geologic terms, we humans are newish creatures. And we didn't master fire until about 400,000 years ago.

How do the teeth of homo sapiens compare with our ancestors?

Modern humans don't have the need for enormous teeth. Our ancestors, however, did. Their teeth were much bigger than those found on people today.

Our ability to do what with tools tends to separate us from apes?

It's a seemingly obvious action that no monkey or gorilla can figure out -- the striking of one stone against another to create a point. This kind of tool building is specific to our species alone.

How did the earliest humans create shelter?

The earliest humans didn't build much of anything. But they still needed shelter -- and they found shelter thanks to caves and other naturally occurring alcoves.

Compared to the skulls of earlier humans, what's the skull of homo sapiens like?

Earlier versions of humans had thick, heavy skulls. In comparison, our thin-walled skulls are pretty weak and not very effective for headbutting.

What's an example of a "trace fossil"?

Trace fossils show traces of long-dead creature. Homo sapiens and other hominids have left many fossilized footprints all over the globe.

In older humans, where did the brain rest?

In modern humans, the brain -- specifically the pronounced forebrain -- rests above the eyes. In older humans, the brain was located mostly behind the eyes.

What is one of homo sapiens' primary evolutionary advantages?

As homo sapiens have evolved, they've often been team players. This spirit of cooperation is a major survival tool that helps keep the gene pool thriving.

What is the closest early relative of humans?

Formally called Homo neanderthalensis, they are the Neanderthals. More than a convenient and backhanded way of calling someone stupid, the Neanderthals exhibited many traits found in modern humans.

Neanderthals, an early ancestor, probably had which ability?

There are all sorts of early version of homo sapiens, including Neaderthals. Their remains feature throat structures that may well have allowed them to speak like modern humans.

What likely caused Neaderthals to go extinct?

About 40,000 years ago Neanderthals died out. In a changing environment (one that was gettng colder), the species struggled to adapt to difficult hunting conditions and eventually faded from the evolution of humans.

Which of the following are reasons that homo sapiens began migrating throughout the world?

Homo sapiens demonstrates an amazing ability to adapt. The species has spread largely due to environmental pressures and genetic change, among other reasons.

As predecessors to homo sapiens evolved, which part of their anatomy grew perpetually larger?

As you've probably already noted, it's the (relative) intelligence of homo sapiens that makes us stand out in the animal crowd. That's why our species (and ancestors) demonstrated ever-larger skulls and brains with which to fill them.

How did homo sapiens interact with Neanderthals?

For a short time, Neanderthals and homo sapiens overlapped in Asia and Europe. They even reproduced, meaning that many modern humans can be traced back to Neanderthal origins.

About 40,000 years ago, modern humans began arriving in which area?

Modern homo sapiens quickly began migrating throughout the world. The first arrived in Europe about 40,000 years ago.

What's one trait that separated Neanderthals from homo sapiens?

Neanderthals were strictly hunter-gatherers … and it cost them everything. Meanwhile, homo sapiens developed agricultural skills that sustained them when other food sources were scarce.

What's one distinctive trait of Sahelanthropus tchadensis?

There are a whole lot of predecessors to homo sapiens. Sahelanthropus tchadensis is a well-known ancestor that had small, canine-like teeth, as well as a skull that looks fairly modern.

Currently, scientists place about how many species in the order Primates?

As it currently stands, there around about 200 species included in the order Primates. And homo sapiens is just one of those hundreds of hairy animals.

Homo sapiens has changed in many ways. What are "archaic humans"?

Modern humans arose about 300,000 years ago. The ancestors of modern humans are archaic humans, a term that includes Neanderthals and several other species.

Recent discoveries mean that a lot of scientists now refer to which place as the birthplace of homo sapiens?

With the 2017 publication in "Nature," it's clear that homo sapiens arose all over Africa. The so-called Garden of Eden wasn't just a small place … it was a broad swath of territory that gave rise to our incredible race.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: Colin Anderson/Blend Images/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Our famous celebrities and politicians may not always act like it, but homo sapiens is an incredibly advanced animal species with a very long history. What started as an evolutionary branch of the apes eventually turned into a super-smart creature able to wield an incredible variety of tools and instruments in the pursuit of survival and the care of offspring. In this hair-raising quiz, are you a warm-blooded hominid or a cold-blooded genetics castaway?

In terms of geologic time, humans are a very recent manifestation of life. Even compared to other relatively advanced type of animals, like certain primates, homo sapiens are virtually brand new. What do you know about the timeline of this species’ development and how it progressed to today’s modern humans?

As evolution progressed, homo sapiens picked up some notable behavioral patterns. Those behaviors, such as the domestication of fire, the raising of crops and the making of ever more sophisticated tools are all hallmarks of this species. Get your warm-blooded heart pumping in this homo sapiens quiz now!

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!