That’s before Homo sapiens came on the scene. Science News looks at new evidence that three different species of human ancestors were present in the same area:
Excavations at Drimolen, a set of caves in South Africa, uncovered two fossil braincases, one from Homo erectus and the other from Paranthropus robustus, say paleoanthropologist Andy Herries of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, and his colleagues. Both finds date to between 2.04 million and 1.95 million years ago, the scientists report in the April 3 Science.
Researchers previously determined that two Australopithecus species, A. africanus and A. sediba, inhabited nearby parts of South Africa approximately 2 million years ago.
Taken together, these discoveries indicate that a major transition in hominid evolution occurred in southern Africa between around 2.1 million and 1.9 million years ago, Herries’ team says. During that stretch, climate and habitat fluctuations drove Australopithecus species to extinction. H. erectus and P. robustus weathered those ecological challenges, possibly outcompeting Australopithecus for limited resources, the researchers speculate.
It’s unclear whether members of the three hominid lines ever encountered each other during that transition period.