Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Geologic Time The Story of a Changing Earth
Presented by the Department of Paleobiology.
The Pleistocene
Contents
Overview
Defining and Dating the Pleistocene Boundary
Pleistocene Glacial Events
Pleistocene Ecosystems and Extinctions
Human Evolution during the Pleistocene
Evidence
Skeleton of the woolly mammoth
learn more
sample
Walrus
Saber-toothed cat
Human ancestor
references and links
Foundational Concepts
Dating Methods
Earth Processes
Life Processes
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Human Evolution during the Pleistocene
Several important events in human evolution took place during the Pleistocene. Fossil localities in Africa such as Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, the Turkana Basin of Kenya and Ethiopia, and Olorgesailie, Kenya, contain many bones and artifacts of fossil humans. In addition, human fossils are found throughout the Old World, because the Pleistocene represents the time of the first recorded human migrations out of Africa. All these remains provide valuable information on how our ancestors lived and interacted with their environment. In order to study the information found at localities such as these, many specialists — including volcanologists, geologists, archaeologists, physical anthropologists, and paleontologists — team up to integrate different types of field and laboratory data.

The evolution of Homo erectus occurred during the Pleistocene, and fossils of this species have been found in Java, China, Europe, and throughout Africa. In addition, late Pleistocene fossils discovered in the Neander valley near Dusseldorf, Germany, represent Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), a species close to modern humans. Along with paleoecological information and associated artifact technologies such as Acheulean and Mousterian cultures (anthropologists call these the Paleolithic cultures). These fossils provide evidence about Pleistocene landscapes, climates, and environments. Fossil humans from Dmanisi, Georgia (west-central Asia), have been dated to the early Pleistocene and appear to represent the earliest migration of humans out of Africa. There may have been multiple such migrations. Regardless, by the late Pleistocene, early modern humans (Homo sapiens) had spread to Australia and the Americas.

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Overview | Defining and Dating the Pleistocene Boundary | Pleistocene Glacial Events
Pleistocene Ecosystems and Extinctions | Human Evolution during the Pleistocene



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