Homo habilis

Homo habilis
Temporal range: 2.3–1.5 Ma
Homo habilis-KNM ER 1813.jpg
Reconstruction of KNM-ER 1813 at the Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Germany
Scientific classification edit
H. habilis
Binomial name
Homo habilis
Leakey et al., 1964

Homo habilis is an archaic species of Stone Age human which lived between roughly 2.1 and 1.5 million years ago (mya), during the Early Pleistocene.[1] The species was first discovered by anthropologists Mary and Louis Leakey at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania in 1955, associated with the Oldowan stone tool industry.[2]

H. habilis is considered to be intermediate between Australopithecus afarensis and H. erectus. It has been suggested reclassifying the species as Australopithecus habilis, as one of the main arguments for its classification into Homo was the now outdated idea that it was the earliest human ancestor to use stone tools. H. habilis likely used tools for butchering meat which it scavenged from more fearsome carnivores.

H. habilis coexisted with other early hominins, such as the robust Paranthropus and Homo erectus.


Since its discovery, it has been argued that Homo habilis should be reclassified as Australopithecus habilis,[3][4] on the basis of small size and some rather primitive attributes .[5][6][7]

Cast of the type specimen OH 7

Louis and Mary Leakey first discovered H. habilis in 1955. It was first formally described by paleoanthropologists Mr. Leakey, Phillip V. Tobias, and John R. Napier on the basis of a jawbone with some teeth, parietal bone fragments, and hand bones of the 1.75 Ma juvenile OH 7. The species name habilis was given on recommendation by South African anthropologist Raymond Dart, and is Latin for "able, handy, mentally skillful, vigorous".[8]

The earliest specimen, LD 350-1, dating to 2.8 million years ago, was argued to be intermediate between Australopithecus and H. habilis.[9] The fossil was claimed as the earliest evidence of the genus Homo known to date. The individual in question lived just after a major climate shift in the region, when forests and waterways were rapidly replaced by arid savannah.[10]

Homo habilis is considered to be the ancestor of the more gracile and sophisticated H. ergaster (the African H. erectus). Debates continue over whether all of the known fossils are properly attributed to the species, and some paleoanthropologists regard the taxon as invalid, made up of various specimens of Australopithecus and Homo.[11] Since H. habilis and H. erectus coexisted, an isolated subpopulation of H. habilis may have evolved into H. erectus, and other subgroups remained as unchanged H. habilis until their extinction.[12]

The discoverers of the Georgian Dmanisi skull suggested that all the contemporary groups of early Homo in Africa–including H. ergaster, H. habilis, and H. rudolfensis–are all different stages in the evolution of H. erectus, making them a chronospecies.[13][14][15]