Human beings all belong to one classification of species, Homo sapiens. Modern Human DNA can be tracked as far back as 160,000 years ago, originating in Africa. Homo sapiens belong to the Hominidae family of primates, with Humans being the only extant species of the genus Homo.
In comparison to earlier species of the Homo genus, Homo sapiens have various characteristics that define them. Homo sapiens can be characterised by having a lighter build than earlier humans. Modern humans have large brains, with this large brain leading to an evolution in skull size and shape. The modern human skull is thin walled, high vaulted and has a flatter forehead than Neanderthals and other earlier human species. Modern human Jaws are also less heavily developed, and evolution has provided us with smaller teeth.
Thanks to fossil and DNA research, we’ve been able to decipher that humans are one of the more than 200 species of primates included in the Hominidae species group. Humans share fairly large amounts of our DNA with chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans. However, contrary to popular belief, we didn’t evolve from a form of ape that still lives today. It is much more likely that we evolved from Homo heidelbergensis, the common ancestor we share with Neanderthals.
Modern humans increased brain capacity in comparison with earlier humans allowed them to develop complex, refined tools and hunting devices. Within the last 12,000 years Homo sapiens realised they could control their environment, and began breeding and growing animals and plants. As food production advanced, settlement occurred which led to the development in towns. This ever increasing population then in time led to the building of large city communities.
It is this significant advance, and development in knowledge and technology that separates modern Homo sapiens from the Neanderthals and earlier members of the homo genus. The Neanderthals showed very little signs of development, failing to develop the skills to harness fire, or build community. Neanderthals are believed to have had a language, so did have some communication skills, but it’s thought they very rarely interacted with other groups, and it could be that lack of social skills that prevented them from increasing their population.
Another primary reason that the Neanderthals became extinct is that they were unable to adapt their behaviour and skill-set to adapt to a changing environment. The superior brain power of the modern humans led to specialized tools, development of social networks, creation of art, control of fire, and the development of better built shelters. None of these advances occurred with the Neanderthals; they failed to adapt their hunting techniques to suit the changing environment, and as a result, eventually died out.
Today, the human population is widespread in every continent except Antarctica, with global population around 7 billion. In comparison, peak Neanderthal population was around 70,000, with global population 90,000 years ago of around 15,000. Modern humans are benefitting from constant advances in technology, awareness and health. In comparison with the Neolithic people from around 30,000 years ago health has drastically improved, with life expectancy rising from 20 to 67.2 in 2010.