‘Homo sapiens’: who are we? Essential traits of our species


In this text we analyse the traits, from their genesis, that constitute current human beings with the objective of characterising the biological and cultural evolution of humanity within the evolutionary framework of our genus. Paleoanthropologists organise our differential traits within the animal kingdom hierarchically: the ability to manufacture a wide range of tools and control fire, language, funeral rituals, etc. However, whether these increases in complexity occurred only in our species or if it is a process which other species have also undergone, or will undergo, remains to be explored.


hominisation; humanisation; singularity; tools; language; complexity; species

Full Text:



  • Agustí, J., & Carbonell, E. (2013). L’evolució sense sentit. Barcelona: Empúries.

  • Arsuaga, J. L., Martínez, I., Gracia, A., Carretero, J. M., & Carbonell, E. (1993). Three new human skulls from the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site in Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain. Nature, 362, 534–537. doi: 10.1038/362534a0

  • Bermúdez de Castro, J. M., Arsuaga, J. L., Carbonell, E., Rosas, A., Martínez, I., & Mosquera, M. (1997). A hominid from the Lower Pleistocene of Atapuerca, Spain: Possible ancestor to Neanderthals and modern humans. Science, 276(5317), 1392–1395. doi: 10.1126/science.276.5317.1392 

  • Bermúdez de Castro, J. M., Martinón-Torres, M., Martín-Francés, L., Modesto-Mata, M., Martínez de Pinillos, M., García, C., & Carbonell, E. (2017). Homo antecessor: The state of the art eighteen years later. Quaternary International, 433, 22–31. doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.03.049

  • Carbonell, E., Mosquera, M., Ollé, A., Rodríguez, X. P., Sala, R., Vergès, J. M., … Bermúdez de Castro, J. M. (2003). Les premiers comportements funéraires auraient-ils pris place à Atapuerca, il y a 350 000 ans? L’Anthropologie, 107(1), 1–14. doi: 10.1016/S0003-5521(03)00002-5

  • Chomsky, N. (1985). El conocimiento del lenguaje. Madrid: Alianza Editorial.

  • D’Errico, F., & Nowell, A. (2000). A new look at the Berekhat Ram figurine: Implications for the origins of symbolism. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 10, 123–167. doi: 10.1017/S0959774300000056

  • Gillespie, R. (2002). Dating the first Australians. Radiocarbon, 44, 455–472. doi: 10.1017/S0033822200031830

  • James, S., Dennell, R., Gilbert, A., Lewis, H., Gowlett, J., Lynch, T., ... James, S. (1989). Hominid use of fire in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene: A review of the evidence [and comments and replies]. Current Anthropology, 30(1), 1–26.

  • Krause, J., Fu, Q., Good, J. M., Viola, B., Shunkov, M. V., Derevianko, A. P., & Pääbo, S. (2010). The complete mitochondrial DNA genome of an un­known hominin from southern Siberia. Nature, 464, 894–897. doi: 10.1038/nature08976

  • Krause, J., Lalueza-Fox, C., Orlando, L., Enard, W., Green, R. E., Burbano, H. A., … Pääbo, S. (2007). The derived FOXP2 variant of modern humans was shared with neandertals. Current Biology, 17(21), 1908–1912. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.10.008

  • Martínez, I., Rosa, M., Arsuaga, J.-L., Jarabo, P., Quam, R., Lorenzo, C., … Carbonell, E. (2004). Auditory capacities in Middle Pleistocene humans from the Sierra de Atapuerca in Spain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(27), 9976–9981. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0403595101 

  • Pettitt, P. B. (2002). The Neanderthal dead: Exploring mortuary variability in Middle Paleolithic Eurasia. Before Farming, 1(4), 1–17. doi: 10.3828/bfarm.2002.1.4

  • Shea, J. J., Fleagle, J. G., Brown, F. W., Assefa, Z., Feibel, C. & McDou­gall, I. (2002). Archaeological reconnaissance of the Omo Kibish Formation, Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution, 42, A33–A34.

  • Thieme, E. (1997). Lower Paleolithic hunting spears from Germany. Nature, 385, 807–810. doi: 10.1038/385807a0

  • White, T. D., Asfaw, B., DeGusta, D., Gilbert, H., Richards, G. D., Gary. D., … Clark Howell, F. (2003). Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Nature, 423, 742–747. doi: 10.1038/nature01669

  • Whitfield, J. (2008). Evolución. El gen del “lenguaje”, FOXP2, parece esencial para la vocalización animal. Investigación y Ciencia, 379, 10–11.

Creative Commons License
Texts in the journal are –unless otherwise indicated– published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License