Compare modern humans (Homo sapiens) to one other species of recent hominin and identify the features that make both of us “humans”. You get to emphasize the traits you think matter most in defining us a human, and you get to pick which species you think is the first to qualify as being enough like us that you would call them humans, too. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. I just want to know what you think and to see you use evidence from the class to support your argument.
What are the key traits of Homo sapiens that you think makes us “human”? Which hominin species from the genus Homo do you think first qualifies as “human”? The hominin species you select as the first “human” must be a member of the genus Homo (1.5 mya or more recent), and you must focus on a single species to compare to Homo sapiens. (If you think only Homo sapiens can be called human, then compare them to Homo neanderthalensis, arguing why their traits differ enough that you don’t consider Neanderthals human yet.) You will need to include anatomical, behavioral, and cultural traits in your argument.
Use the tables, readings, and diagrams in the module and Explorations chapter to fill out the What makes us Human? chart. Pick one species to compare to Homo sapiens and for each, describe the form and function, and the evidence for each of the traits as laid out in the chart. You may pick Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, or Homo neanderthalensis to compare to Homo sapiens. IF you think ONLY Homo sapiens qualify as humans, then compare us to Homo neanderthalensis and be clear where you think the differences matter and make us human and them not quite human.
Be sure to explain the comparison – are the traits identical? how do they differ? does this difference matter in showing the species as “human” or not? Are they enough like us that you consider them “human” or “people”?
- Open it in Word or Google Docs
- Three options for completing the table:
- Fill it out on the computer: On the computer, you can type phrases and sentences to explain, and use symbols or line drawings to create a diagram if you want. Please DO NOT use clip art or copied diagrams/images from online sources. These may show the right information but don’t help your ability to explain it. The actual drawing and explaining will help you understand it better. Resubmit the finished document.
- Print it out and draw and write by hand. Take a photo to submit.
- Use your own paper (or whiteboard etc) to recreate the table or a panel for each of the 4 sources. Take a photo (or 4) to submit.
- Upload the finished document or a photo of your hand-written version back into the assignment.
Hints & Tips
Be strategic in selecting the species you consider the first “human”. Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo neanderthalensis are your three options – every other species has some similarities, but not enough. It is also possible to support the argument that none of these three are yet fully “human” and only Homo sapiens are “human”. You then need to argue why Neanderthals are close but not close enough to be “human”. Homo heidelbergensis is a valid choice, but also potentially harder since we know less about this species.
Organize your notes in the chart to make sure you are comparing all the features for the two species and giving equal time to the descriptions for both species. Be sure to explain the comparison – are the traits identical? how do they differ? does this difference matter in showing the species as “human” or not? Are they enough like us that you consider them “human” or “people”?
Learning and growth take practice and reflection and I am here to support your efforts. All assignments will receive an initial grade based on the provided rubric. If you aren’t happy with the points you receive or need to improve your submission, everyone will have the option to review my feedback, revise your work, and resubmit your assignment by the “available until” date 1 week after the original due date. If you have questions about how to improve a submission or about my feedback, please ask me.