added by archaeologs The hominids include all species believed to be related more closely to man than to the apes (pongids). Numerous human (and hominid) fossils are now known and conflicting interpretations of them exist. The simplest view is of a single line of species leading to modem man. Ramapithecus of the Miocene period (cl5-6 million years ago) leads to Australopithecus africanus or ‘gracile australopithecines’ of the Pliocene (c5.5-2 million years ago) and ‘Homo habilis’ of the period 2-1.5 million years ago. Then at about the beginning of the Pleistocene (cl.6 million years ago) comes the species Homo erectus, originally known from Java and near Peking, but now well-known also from Africa. In the last half million years Homo erectus is replaced by Homo sapiens, including (in the wider sense used by most students since 1962) Neanderthal and pre-Neanderthal fossil men, as well as all modem races and fossils of broadly modern type. While some extreme views have included all known hominids in the line described above, most modem workers now regard fossils of Australopithecus (or Paranthropus) robustus — ‘robust australopithecines’ — and related forms as a separate cousin lineage and not directly ancestral to modem man. At various times almost all the other fossil groups visibly different from modem man have also been regarded as separate lineages not ancestral to us. Many workers still regard the European Neanderthals as non-ancestral, and a similar view has been taken of the ‘Rhodesian’ group (Broken Hill man etc), Java and Peking Man and several types of Australopithecus including africanus. The most obvious changes detectable since the Pliocene seem to have been an increase in brain size from under 500 cc on average to the average of over 1300 cc found today, and a concomitant decrease in the size of teeth and the jaws which support them.
The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983