From the discoveries of archaeologists, paleoanthropologists, and other scientists, we can begin to know what the distant past was like.
Many experts agree that the first hominids appeared south of the Sahara in Africa more than 3 million years ago.
By Lucy's time, several kinds of australopithecines lived in eastern Africa. All were mainly plant-eaters.
Most may also have eaten meat left over from lion kills.
By 2.5 million years ago, at least one larger-brained group of hominids lived in eastern Africa. These belonged to Homo habilis. Within 500,000 years they had spread throughout eastern Africa and into southern Africa. They usually traveled across open grasslands in search of food. As they traveled, they gathered and ate many different kinds of plants. In addition, they scavenged meat from lion and leopard kills. To cut the meat, they used stone choppers and knives, which they made by hitting two stones against each other.
About 1.9 million years ago Homo erectus also could be found in Africa. Homo erectus had greater brainpower than Homo habilis. Even so, Homo erectus probably could not make more than a few different sounds.
These early Africans were the first to tame fire. This action gave them a way to protect themselves against lions and other wild animals. It also allowed them to live in colder climates because they could use fire to keep themselves warm.
Like earlier hominids, Homo erectus survived by hunting and gathering. In time, hunting and gathering led bands, or small groups, of these hominids across Africa's Sahara and into Asia. Later, bands appeared throughout much of Asia and in Europe as well.
For more than 1.5 million years, Homo erectus flourished in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Life changed little for Homo erectus-except in Africa. On this continent the first modern humans began to appear by 200,000 years ago. These newcomers, Homo sapiens, would greatly affect the ways of life of Africa's Homo erectus.
Review How did controlling fire help Homo erectus?