The ancient species Homo erectus (the “upright human”) achieved an amazing feat. It survived far longer than any other homo species, including our own. It’s also the first homo species to geographically spread from its origins in Africa – as far as Eastern Asia, including China.
The arrival of Erectus marks a leap forward in human evolution. In its later years, the early signs of the modern symbolic self first emerged. This involved: reflexivity, representational ability and agency. Why? 1) The human brain increased significantly in size; 2) Hunting became more collaborative and complex; And 3) social groups became more stable, that is, they created home bases rather than roaming around nomadically.
However, while researchers still disagree whether Erectus is a direct ancestor to modern humans, this species didn’t acquire the conceptual-self that characterises modern-day humans. There isn’t a shred of evidence of artefacts associated with this type of self-awareness, such as art, language, and cultural differences in tools.
What’s more, the deliberate use of fire, a real turning point for human evolution, is not evidenced until around 300,000 to 400,000 years ago.