Homo Habilis Facts For Kids: Learn All About Our Ancestors

Divya Raghav
Mar 07, 2023 By Divya Raghav
Originally Published on Apr 08, 2022
Edited by Daisha Capers
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Homo habilis facts suggest that the species used stone tools as weapons or for scavenging.

Homo habilis species is believed to have existed 1.4-2.4 million years ago in Eastern and Southern Africa and is believed to have been like an ape due to its physical features.

However, Homo habilis facts suggest they were, slightly larger-brained, early or first humans. It was because they had developed the skills to make stone tools and use them for their food and survival.

The fossil evidence of the Homo habilis species was first unearthed in 1959 in Tanzania, but it was only in 1964 that it was assigned the name Homo habilis. Since then, many more discoveries have been made of Homo habilis fossils, but the debate over its inclusion in the human genus Homo is far from over.

Also, they have been credited with being the first to use stone tools comprising choppers, core tools, and scrapers, marking a giant step in human evolution.

Classification Of Homo Habilis

The name Homo habilis has not received universal approval, and its inclusion in the human genus Homo has been nothing but controversial. They have been classified into two groups, depending on their features.

The first group has retained the name Homo habilis with features related to it. However, scientists want it to be classified under the name Australopithecus habilis due to physical similarities with the genus australopithecines.

The second group classified has been given multiple names such as Homo rudolfensis, Australopithecus rudolfensis, or Kenyanthropus rudolfensis, but the debate on naming this group under one name is still on. This group is for fossils with larger brains and teeth.

Physical Characteristics Of Homo Habilis

During the initial discovery of the fossils, it was believed that the species Homo Habilis was another type of human ancestor. But fossil records of Homo Habilis stated they were more ape-type, bearing features of this mammal. It is one of the important Homo habilis facts.

Their heights were estimated to be between 3 ft 4 in-4 ft 5 in (101.6-134.6 cm). Males grew up to 53.1 in (135 cm), while females up to 43.3 in (110 cm). Their weight was estimated to be 70 lb (31.7 kg) on average.

They had a larger brain size than australopithecine, which had characteristics of both apes and humans. Their cranial capacity with respect to brain volume was estimated to be 37.2 cubic in (610 cubic cm) on average.

They had long hands and short legs, typical of an ape. The study of its legs, foot bones, and features confirmed that the species Homo habilis walked on two legs.

Studies of the fossils also confirmed that the Homo habilis had moderately curved finger bones. The finger proportions also suggested that Homo habilis had the human ability to form a firm grip with their hands.

They also had a moderately-prognathic face. or slight bulging of the lower jaw. due to the unaligned teeth caused by the shape of facial bones. They had smaller teeth with small canines and jaws compared to australopithecine, but their teeth were aligned like a rounded arc similar to humans, except that the incisor teeth were relatively large.

The skills to make stone tools

Traits And Lifestyle of Homo Habilis

Homo habilis is not assigned under the genus Australopithecus or Homo sapiens due to their distinct features and traits.

The brain size of Homo habilis was 50% bigger than genus Australopithecus and much smaller than genus Homo. Homo habilis' brain size ranged from 33.5-41.9 cubic in (550-687 cubic cm), double the size of Australopithecus. Homo sapiens' brain size was 82.39-88.48 cubic in (1350-1450 cubic cm).

The Homo habilis was shorter compared to modern humans. They were 4 ft 3 in (129.5 cm) tall on average.

The Homo habilis is believed to be among the first to use stone tools. These handmade stone tools were made from volcanic rock cobbles. These tools were used by Homo habilis as weapons or for scavenging.

The early population of Homo habilis, or possibly another Homo species, could have used the first crude stone tools comprising choppers, core tools, and scrapers.

In terms of food habits, the Homo habilis species ate a wide range of foods. According to dental microwear studies, it included tough food such as leaves, woody plants, and animal tissues. However, the killing of large animals during that era also suggested that Homo habilis also ate meat and marrow for survival.

Fossil Information About Homo Habilis

One of the important Homo habilis facts is that their first fossil remains were found in the '50s, and since then, subsequent discoveries have been made to confirm their presence in history.

In 1959, scientists Louis and Mary Leakey discovered two teeth at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, East Africa. However, it was not confirmed a new species of Homo habilis at that time.

A year later, in 1960, Jonathan Leakey, son of Louis and Mary, unearthed a boy's skeleton in the same place. This specimen of the fossil was termed OH 7 and called 'Jonny's child' after the person who discovered it.

The features of this skeleton, including its hands, feet, and size of the brain, and the presence of stone tools along with the fossil remains confirmed that a new species of humans had been found.

However, it was only in 1964 that this species was included in the genus Homo and called Homo habilis, meaning the 'handy man'.

It was given the name 'handy man' as scientists believed that they were slightly larger-brained early humans who had developed the ability to make stone tools for their survival and as weapons.

Post-1964, some significant fossil specimens of Homo habilis were:

KNM-ER 1813: Kamoya Kimeu unearthed an adult skull in 1973 in Koobi Fora, East Turkana, Kenya. This skull was said to be 1.9-million-year-old and had a brain size of 31.13 cubic in (510 cubic cm).

OH 62: In 1986, Tim White discovered a partial skeleton of a female in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania dating back 1.8 million years ago. It was an important discovery in understanding the species' body proportions, limbs, and legs and coming to the conclusion that Homo habilis was quite similar to an ape, bearing similar features to the mammal.

AL 666-1: This has been put under the genus Homo, but it is not certain whether it is a Homo habilis. It could be a new species altogether.

It was a lower jaw with a dental arch in humans. It was discovered in 1994 in Hadar, Ethiopia. It is about 2.3 million years old and the oldest fossils to be linked with stone tools.

AL 666-1: Discovered in Kenya in 2000, this is believed to be the youngest Homo habilis, being as old as 1.44 million years old. It is a right upper jaw bone.


What are the differences between Homo habilis and Homo erectus?

Homo erectus walked more upright than Homo habilis, although both walked on their two legs. Also, Homo habilis used stone tools as weapons or for scavenging, while Homo erectus created fire to cook food and keep themselves warm and safe from predators.

What does Homo habilis mean?

Homo habilis is derived from a Latin word that means 'handy man'. The species was given this name due to the presence of stone tools near its fossil remains, indicating they were skilled enough to make such tools and use them.

Where was Homo habilis found?

The first fossil remains, two teeth, of Homo habilis were found in 1959 at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania by two scientists named Louis and Mary Leakey. A year later, their son Jonathan unearthed a skeletal at the same place. Many more fossils have been found in Olduvai George, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

What have anthropologists learned about how Homo habilis used tools they fashioned?

Anthropologists learned that Homo habilis used stone tools as weapons and for scavenging. They used these stone tools to cull, skin, and crush the bones of animals. They also used tools to scrape wood and cut soft plants or to break down tough foods such as meat and plants.

What do Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Homo sapiens have in common?

The common thread between these three species is that they walked on two legs. However, the degree of walking upright differed for each species. Homo sapiens walked more upright than any of the Homo habilis, Homo erectus, or other previous species.

How tall was Homo habilis?

Homo habilis was shorter compared to the average human. They were between 3 ft 4 in-4 ft 5 in (101.6-134.6 cm) tall. The males grew up to 4.43 in (135 cm), while the female up to 3.61 in (110 cm).

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Written by Divya Raghav

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

Divya Raghav picture

Divya RaghavBachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

With a diverse range of experience in finance, administration, and operations, Divya is a diligent worker known for her attention to detail. Born and raised in Bangalore, she completed her Bachelor's in Commerce from Christ University and is now pursuing an MBA at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Bangalore. Along with her professional pursuits, Divya has a passion for baking, dancing, and writing content. She is also an avid animal lover who dedicates her time to volunteering for animal welfare causes.

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Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi

Postgraduate Diploma in Management

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Sakshi RaturiPostgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi has experience in marketing strategy, social media planning, and recruiting industry experts for capstone projects, she has displayed a commitment to enhancing their skills and knowledge. She has won multiple awards, including a Certificate of Appreciation for Creative Writing and a Certificate of Merit for Immaculate Turut, and is always seeking new opportunities to grow and develop.

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