Homo sapiens idaltu White et al., 2003
Homo sapiens sapiens
Homo sapiens population density
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Klaatsch & Hauser, 1910
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
McCown & Keith, 1932
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Bory de St. Vincent, 1825
Modern humans (
Homo sapiens, ssp.
Homo sapiens sapiens) are the only
extant members of the subtribe Hominina, a branch of the tribe
Hominini belonging to the family of great apes. They are characterized
by erect posture and bipedal locomotion; high manual dexterity and
heavy tool use compared to other animals; open-ended and complex
language use compared to other animal communications; and a general
trend toward larger, more complex brains and societies.
Early hominins—particularly the australopithecines, whose brains and
anatomy are in many ways more similar to ancestral non-human
apes—are less often referred to as "human" than hominins of the
genus Homo. Several of these hominins used fire, occupied much of
Eurasia, and gave rise to anatomically modern
Homo sapiens in Africa
about 315,000 years ago. They began to exhibit evidence of
behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago. In several waves of
migration, anatomically modern humans ventured out of Africa and
populated most of the world.
The spread of humans and their large and increasing population has had
a profound impact on large areas of the environment and millions of
native species worldwide. Advantages that explain this evolutionary
success include a relatively larger brain with a particularly
well-developed neocortex, prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, which
enable high levels of abstract reasoning, language, problem solving,
sociality, and culture through social learning. Humans use tools to a
much higher degree than any other animal, are the only extant species
known to build fires and cook their food, and are the only extant
species to clothe themselves and create and use numerous other
technologies and arts.
Humans are uniquely adept at using systems of symbolic communication
(such as language and art) for self-expression and the exchange of
ideas, and for organizing themselves into purposeful groups. Humans
create complex social structures composed of many cooperating and
competing groups, from families and kinship networks to political
states. Social interactions between humans have established an
extremely wide variety of values, social norms, and rituals, which
together form the basis of human society. Curiosity and the human
desire to understand and influence the environment and to explain and
manipulate phenomena (or events) has provided the foundation for
developing science, philosophy, mythology, religion, anthropology, and
numerous other fields of knowledge.
Though most of human existence has been sustained by hunting and
gathering in band societies, increasing numbers of human societies
began to practice sedentary agriculture approximately some 10,000
years ago, domesticating plants and animals, thus allowing for the
growth of civilization. These human societies subsequently expanded in
size, establishing various forms of government, religion, and culture
around the world, unifying people within regions to form states and
empires. The rapid advancement of scientific and medical understanding
in the 19th and 20th centuries led to the development of fuel-driven
technologies and increased lifespans, causing the human population to
rise exponentially. Today the global human population is estimated by
United Nations to be near 7.6 billion.
1 Etymology and definition
Evolution and range
2.1.1 Evidence from molecular biology
2.1.2 Evidence from the fossil record
2.1.3 Anatomical adaptations
2.2 Rise of
2.3 Transition to civilization
3 Habitat and population
4.1 Anatomy and physiology
4.5 Biological variation
4.5.1 Structure of variation
Sleep and dreaming
Consciousness and thought
Motivation and emotion
5.4 Sexuality and love
6.5 Society, government, and politics
Trade and economics
Material culture and technology
6.8.1 Body culture
Philosophy and self-reflection
Religion and spirituality
6.11 Art, music, and literature
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Etymology and definition
Man (word) and Names for the human species
In common usage, the word "human" generally refers to the only extant
species of the genus Homo—anatomically and behaviorally modern Homo
In scientific terms, the meanings of "hominid" and "hominin" have
changed during the recent decades with advances in the discovery and
study of the fossil ancestors of modern humans. The previously clear
boundary between humans and apes has blurred, resulting in now
acknowledging the hominids as encompassing multiple species, and Homo
and close relatives since the split from chimpanzees as the only
hominins. There is also a distinction between anatomically modern
humans and Archaic
Homo sapiens, the earliest fossil members of the
The English adjective human is a
Middle English loanword from Old
French humain, ultimately from
Latin hūmānus, the adjective form of
homō "man." The word's use as a noun (with a plural: humans) dates to
the 16th century. The native English term man can refer to the
species generally (a synonym for humanity) as well as to human males,
or individuals of either sex (though this latter form is less common
in contemporary English).
The species binomial
Homo sapiens was coined by
Carl Linnaeus in his
18th century work Systema Naturae. The generic name
Homo is a
learned 18th century derivation from
Latin homō "man," ultimately
"earthly being" (Old
Latin hemō a cognate to Old English guma "man,"
from PIE dʰǵʰemon-, meaning "earth" or "ground"). The
species-name sapiens means "wise" or "sapient." Note that the Latin
word homo refers to humans of either gender, and that sapiens is the
singular form (while there is no such word as sapien).
view • discuss • edit
Earliest stone tools
Earliest exit from Africa
Earliest fire use
Earliest in Europe
Axis scale: million years
Life timeline and Nature timeline
Evolution and range
Further information: Anthropology, Homo, and Timeline of human
Homo evolved and diverged from other hominins in Africa,
after the human clade split from the chimpanzee lineage of the
hominids (great apes) branch of the primates. Modern humans, defined
as the species
Homo sapiens or specifically to the single extant
Homo sapiens sapiens, proceeded to colonize all the
continents and larger islands, arriving in
years ago, Australia around 40,000 years ago, the Americas
around 15,000 years ago, and remote islands such as Hawaii, Easter
Island, Madagascar, and
New Zealand between the years 300 and
Evidence from molecular biology
The closest living relatives of humans are chimpanzees (genus Pan) and
gorillas (genus Gorilla). With the sequencing of the human and
chimpanzee genomes, current estimates of similarity between human and
chimpanzee DNA sequences range between 95% and 99%. By
using the technique called a molecular clock which estimates the time
required for the number of divergent mutations to accumulate between
two lineages, the approximate date for the split between lineages can
be calculated. The gibbons (family Hylobatidae) and orangutans (genus
Pongo) were the first groups to split from the line leading to the
humans, then gorillas (genus Gorilla) followed by the chimpanzees
(genus Pan). The splitting date between human and chimpanzee lineages
is placed around 4–8 million years ago during the late Miocene
epoch. During this split, chromosome 2 was formed from two
other chromosomes, leaving humans with only 23 pairs of chromosomes,
compared to 24 for the other apes.
Evidence from the fossil record
There is little fossil evidence for the divergence of the gorilla,
chimpanzee and hominin lineages. The earliest fossils that
have been proposed as members of the hominin lineage are
Sahelanthropus tchadensis dating from 7 million years ago,
Orrorin tugenensis dating from 5.7 million years ago, and
Ardipithecus kadabba dating to 5.6 million years ago. Each of
these species has been argued to be a bipedal ancestor of later
hominins, but all such claims are contested. It is also possible that
any one of the three is an ancestor of another branch of African apes,
or is an ancestor shared between hominins and other African Hominoidea
(apes). The question of the relation between these early fossil
species and the hominin lineage is still to be resolved. From these
early species the australopithecines arose around 4 million years
ago diverged into robust (also called Paranthropus) and gracile
branches, possibly one of which (such as A. garhi, dating to
2.5 million years ago) is a direct ancestor of the genus
The earliest members of the genus
Homo habilis which evolved
around 2.8 million years ago.
Homo habilis has been
considered the first species for which there is clear evidence of the
use of stone tools. More recently, however, in 2015, stone tools,
Homo habilis, have been discovered in northwestern
Kenya that have been dated to 3.3 million years old. Nonetheless,
the brains of
Homo habilis were about the same size as that of a
chimpanzee, and their main adaptation was bipedalism as an adaptation
to terrestrial living. During the next million years a process of
encephalization began, and with the arrival of
Homo erectus in the
fossil record, cranial capacity had doubled.
Homo erectus were the
first of the hominina to leave Africa, and these species spread
through Africa, Asia, and Europe between 1.3 to 1.8 million
years ago. One population of H. erectus, also sometimes classified as
a separate species
Homo ergaster, stayed in Africa and evolved into
Homo sapiens. It is believed that these species were the first to use
fire and complex tools. The earliest transitional fossils between H.
ergaster/erectus and archaic humans are from Africa such as Homo
rhodesiensis, but seemingly transitional forms are also found at
Dmanisi, Georgia. These descendants of African H. erectus spread
Eurasia from c. 500,000 years ago evolving into H. antecessor,
H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis. The earliest fossils of
anatomically modern humans are from the Middle Paleolithic, about
200,000 years ago such as the
Omo remains of Ethiopia and the fossils
of Herto sometimes classified as
Homo sapiens idaltu. Later
fossils of archaic
Homo sapiens from
Skhul in Israel and Southern
Europe begin around 90,000 years ago.
Human evolution is characterized by a number of morphological,
developmental, physiological, and behavioral changes that have taken
place since the split between the last common ancestor of humans and
chimpanzees. The most significant of these adaptations are 1.
bipedalism, 2. increased brain size, 3. lengthened ontogeny (gestation
and infancy), 4. decreased sexual dimorphism (neoteny). The
relationship between all these changes is the subject of ongoing
debate. Other significant morphological changes included the
evolution of a power and precision grip, a change first occurring in
Bipedalism is the basic adaption of the hominin line, and it is
considered the main cause behind a suite of skeletal changes shared by
all bipedal hominins. The earliest bipedal hominin is considered to be
either Sahelanthropus or Orrorin, with Ardipithecus, a full
bipedal, coming somewhat later. The knuckle
walkers, the gorilla and chimpanzee, diverged around the same time,
Orrorin may be humans' last shared
ancestor with those animals. The early bipedals
eventually evolved into the australopithecines and later the genus
Homo. There are several theories of the adaptational
value of bipedalism. It is possible that bipedalism was favored
because it freed up the hands for reaching and carrying food, because
it saved energy during locomotion, because it enabled long distance
running and hunting, or as a strategy for avoiding hyperthermia by
reducing the surface exposed to direct sun.
The human species developed a much larger brain than that of other
primates—typically 1,330 cm3 (81 cu in) in modern
humans, over twice the size of that of a chimpanzee or gorilla.
The pattern of encephalization started with
Homo habilis which at
approximately 600 cm3 (37 cu in) had a brain slightly
larger than chimpanzees, and continued with
(800–1,100 cm3 (49–67 cu in)), and reached a
maximum in Neanderthals with an average size of 1,200–1,900 cm3
(73–116 cu in), larger even than
Homo sapiens (but less
encephalized). The pattern of human postnatal brain growth differs
from that of other apes (heterochrony), and allows for extended
periods of social learning and language acquisition in juvenile
humans. However, the differences between the structure of human brains
and those of other apes may be even more significant than differences
in size. The increase in volume over time has affected
different areas within the brain unequally – the temporal
lobes, which contain centers for language processing have increased
disproportionately, as has the prefrontal cortex which has been
related to complex decision making and moderating social behavior.
Encephalization has been tied to an increasing emphasis on meat in the
diet, or with the development of cooking, and it has been
proposed  that intelligence increased as a response to an
increased necessity for solving social problems as human society
became more complex.
The reduced degree of sexual dimorphism is primarily visible in the
reduction of the male canine tooth relative to other ape species
(except gibbons). Another important physiological change related to
sexuality in humans was the evolution of hidden estrus. Humans are the
only ape in which the female is fertile year round, and in which no
special signals of fertility are produced by the body (such as genital
swelling during estrus). Nonetheless humans retain a degree of sexual
dimorphism in the distribution of body hair and subcutaneous fat, and
in the overall size, males being around 25% larger than females. These
changes taken together have been interpreted as a result of an
increased emphasis on pair bonding as a possible solution to the
requirement for increased parental investment due to the prolonged
infancy of offspring.
World map of early human migrations according to mitochondrial
population genetics (numbers are millennia before present, the North
Pole is at the center).
Further information: Anatomically modern humans, Archaic human
admixture with modern humans, Early human migrations, Multiregional
origin of modern humans, Prehistoric autopsy, and Recent African
origin of modern humans
By the beginning of the
Upper Paleolithic period (50,000 BP), full
behavioral modernity, including language, music and other cultural
universals had developed. As modern humans spread out from
Africa they encountered other hominids such as
and the so-called Denisovans. The nature of interaction between early
humans and these sister species has been a long-standing source of
controversy, the question being whether humans replaced these earlier
species or whether they were in fact similar enough to interbreed, in
which case these earlier populations may have contributed genetic
material to modern humans. Recent studies of the human and
Neanderthal genomes suggest gene flow between archaic
Homo sapiens and
Neanderthals and Denisovans. In March 2016, studies were
published that suggest that modern humans bred with hominins,
Denisovans and Neanderthals, on multiple occasions.
This dispersal out of Africa is estimated to have begun about 70,000
years BP from Northeast Africa. Current evidence suggests that there
was only one such dispersal and that it only involved a few hundred
individuals. The vast majority of humans stayed in Africa and adapted
to a diverse array of environments. Modern humans subsequently
spread globally, replacing earlier hominins (either through
competition or hybridization). They inhabited
Eurasia and Oceania by
40,000 years BP, and the Americas at least 14,500 years BP.
Transition to civilization
Neolithic Revolution and Cradle of civilization
Further information: History of the world
The rise of agriculture, and domestication of animals, led to stable
Until about 10,000 years ago, humans lived as hunter-gatherers. They
gradually gained domination over much of the natural environment. They
generally lived in small nomadic groups known as band societies, often
in caves. The advent of agriculture prompted the
when access to food surplus led to the formation of permanent human
settlements, the domestication of animals and the use of metal tools
for the first time in history. Agriculture encouraged trade and
cooperation, and led to complex society.
The early civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Maya,
Greece and Rome were some of the cradles of civilization.
Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages and the
Early Modern Period
Early Modern Period saw the rise of
revolutionary ideas and technologies. Over the next 500 years,
European colonialism brought great parts of the world
under European control, leading to later struggles for independence.
The concept of the modern world as distinct from an ancient world is
based on a rapid change progress in a brief period of time in many
areas. Advances in all areas of human activity
prompted new theories such as evolution and psychoanalysis, which
changed humanity's views of itself. The Scientific
Technological Revolution and the
Industrial Revolution up
until the 19th century resulted in independent discoveries such as
imaging technology, major innovations in transport, such as the
airplane and automobile; energy development, such as coal and
electricity. This correlates with population growth (especially in
America) and higher life expectancy, the
World population rapidly
increased numerous times in the 19th and 20th centuries as nearly 10%
of the 100 billion people lived in the past century.
With the advent of the
Information Age at the end of the 20th century,
modern humans live in a world that has become increasingly globalized
and interconnected. As of 2010, almost 2 billion humans are able
to communicate with each other via the Internet, and 3.3 billion
by mobile phone subscriptions. Although interconnection between
humans has encouraged the growth of science, art, discussion, and
technology, it has also led to culture clashes and the development and
use of weapons of mass destruction. Human
civilization has led to environmental destruction and pollution
significantly contributing to the ongoing mass extinction of other
forms of life called the
Holocene extinction event, which may be
further accelerated by global warming in the future.
Habitat and population
The Earth, as seen from space in 2016, showing the extent of human
occupation of the planet. The bright lights signify both the most
densely inhabited areas and ones financially capable of illuminating
Tokyo, the world's largest metropolitan area, is an example of a mass
human settlement called a city
Human migration, Demography, and World population
See also: City, Town, Nomad, Camping, Farm, House, Watercraft,
Infrastructure, Architecture, Building, and Engineering
Early human settlements were dependent on proximity to water and,
depending on the lifestyle, other natural resources used for
subsistence, such as populations of animal prey for hunting and arable
land for growing crops and grazing livestock. But humans have a great
capacity for altering their habitats by means of technology, through
irrigation, urban planning, construction, transport, manufacturing
goods, deforestation and desertification, but human
settlements continue to be vulnerable to natural disasters, especially
those placed in hazardous locations and characterized by lack of
quality of construction. Deliberate habitat alteration is often
done with the goals of increasing material wealth, increasing thermal
comfort, improving the amount of food available, improving aesthetics,
or improving ease of access to resources or other human settlements.
With the advent of large-scale trade and transport infrastructure,
proximity to these resources has become unnecessary, and in many
places, these factors are no longer a driving force behind the growth
and decline of a population. Nonetheless, the manner in which a
habitat is altered is often a major determinant in population
Technology has allowed humans to colonize six of the Earth's seven
continents and adapt to virtually all climates. However the human
population is not uniformly distributed on the Earth's surface,
because the population density varies from one region to another and
there are large areas almost completely uninhabited, like
Antarctica. Within the last century, humans have explored
Antarctica, underwater environment, and outer space, although
large-scale colonization of these environments is not yet feasible.
With a population of over seven billion, humans are among the most
numerous of the large mammals. Most humans (61%) live in Asia. The
remainder live in the Americas (14%), Africa (14%), Europe (11%), and
Human habitation within closed ecological systems in hostile
environments, such as
Antarctica and outer space, is expensive,
typically limited in duration, and restricted to scientific, military,
or industrial expeditions.
Life in space has been very sporadic, with
no more than thirteen humans in space at any given time. Between
1969 and 1972, two humans at a time spent brief intervals on the Moon.
As of April 2018, no other celestial body has been visited by humans,
although there has been a continuous human presence in space since the
launch of the initial crew to inhabit the International
on October 31, 2000. However, other celestial bodies have been
visited by human-made objects.
Since 1800, the human population has increased from one billion to
over seven billion, In 2004, some 2.5 billion out of 6.3 billion
people (39.7%) lived in urban areas. In February 2008, the U.N.
estimated that half the world's population would live in urban areas
by the end of the year. Problems for humans living in cities
include various forms of pollution and crime, especially in inner
city and suburban slums. Both overall population numbers and the
proportion residing in cities are expected to increase significantly
in the coming decades.
Humans have had a dramatic effect on the environment. Humans are apex
predators, being rarely preyed upon by other species. Currently,
through land development, combustion of fossil fuels, and pollution,
humans are thought to be the main contributor to global climate
change. If this continues at its current rate it is predicted that
climate change will wipe out half of all plant and animal species over
the next century.
Basic anatomical features of female and male humans. These models have
had body hair and male facial hair removed and head hair trimmed. The
female model is wearing red nail polish on her toenails and a ring.
Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci's image is often used as an implied
symbol of the essential symmetry of the human body, and by extension,
of the universe as a whole.
Anatomy and physiology
Human physical appearance, Anatomically modern
human, and Sex differences in humans
Most aspects of human physiology are closely homologous to
corresponding aspects of animal physiology. The human body consists of
the legs, the torso, the arms, the neck, and the head. An adult human
body consists of about 100 trillion (1014) cells. The most commonly
defined body systems in humans are the nervous, the cardiovascular,
the circulatory, the digestive, the endocrine, the immune, the
integumentary, the lymphatic, the musculoskeletal, the reproductive,
the respiratory, and the urinary system.
Humans, like most of the other apes, lack external tails, have several
blood type systems, have opposable thumbs, and are sexually dimorphic.
The comparatively minor anatomical differences between humans and
chimpanzees are a result of human bipedalism. One difference is that
humans have a far faster and more accurate throw than other animals.
Humans are also among the best long-distance runners in the animal
kingdom, but slower over short distances. Humans' thinner body
hair and more productive sweat glands help avoid heat exhaustion while
running for long distances.
As a consequence of bipedalism, human females have narrower birth
canals. The construction of the human pelvis differs from other
primates, as do the toes. A trade-off for these advantages of the
modern human pelvis is that childbirth is more difficult and dangerous
than in most mammals, especially given the larger head size of human
babies compared to other primates. This means that human babies must
turn around as they pass through the birth canal, which other primates
do not do, and it makes humans the only species where females usually
require help from their conspecifics (other members of their own
species) to reduce the risks of birthing. As a partial evolutionary
solution, human fetuses are born less developed and more vulnerable.
Chimpanzee babies are cognitively more developed than human babies
until the age of six months, when the rapid development of human
brains surpasses chimpanzees. Another difference between women and
chimpanzee females is that women go through the menopause and become
unfertile decades before the end of their lives. All species of
non-human apes are capable of giving birth until death. Menopause
probably developed as it has provided an evolutionary advantage (more
caring time) to young relatives.
Apart from bipedalism, humans differ from chimpanzees mostly in
smelling, hearing, digesting proteins, brain size, and the ability of
language. Humans' brains are about three times bigger than in
chimpanzees. More importantly, the brain to body ratio is much higher
in humans than in chimpanzees, and humans have a significantly more
developed cerebral cortex, with a larger number of neurons. The mental
abilities of humans are remarkable compared to other apes. Humans'
ability of speech is unique among primates. Humans are able to create
new and complex ideas, and to develop technology, which is
unprecedented among other organisms on Earth.
It is estimated that the worldwide average height for an adult human
male is about 172 cm (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in),[citation
needed] while the worldwide average height for adult human females is
about 158 cm (5 ft 2 in). Shrinkage of
stature may begin in middle age in some individuals, but tends to be
typical in the extremely aged. Through history human populations
have universally become taller, probably as a consequence of better
nutrition, healthcare, and living conditions. The average mass of
an adult human is 54–64 kg (119–141 lb) for females and
70–83 kg (154–183 lb) for males. Like many other
conditions, body weight and body type is influenced by both genetic
susceptibility and environment and varies greatly among individuals.
Although humans appear hairless compared to other primates, with
notable hair growth occurring chiefly on the top of the head,
underarms and pubic area, the average human has more hair follicles on
his or her body than the average chimpanzee. The main distinction is
that human hairs are shorter, finer, and less heavily pigmented than
the average chimpanzee's, thus making them harder to see. Humans
have about 2 million sweat glands spread over their entire bodies,
many more than chimpanzees, whose sweat glands are scarce and are
mainly located on the palm of the hand and on the soles of the
feet. Humans have the largest number of eccrine sweat glands
The dental formula of humans is: 18.104.22.168.1.2.3. Humans have
proportionately shorter palates and much smaller teeth than other
primates. They are the only primates to have short, relatively flush
canine teeth. Humans have characteristically crowded teeth, with gaps
from lost teeth usually closing up quickly in young individuals.
Humans are gradually losing their wisdom teeth, with some individuals
having them congenitally absent.
Human evolutionary genetics
A graphical representation of the standard human karyotype, including
both the male (XY) and female (XX) sex chromosomes.
Like all mammals, humans are a diploid eukaryotic species. Each
somatic cell has two sets of 23 chromosomes, each set received from
one parent; gametes have only one set of chromosomes, which is a
mixture of the two parental sets. Among the 23 pairs of chromosomes
there are 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes. Like
other mammals, humans have an XY sex-determination system, so that
females have the sex chromosomes XX and males have XY.
One human genome was sequenced in full in 2003, and currently efforts
are being made to achieve a sample of the genetic diversity of the
species (see International HapMap Project). By present estimates,
humans have approximately 22,000 genes. The variation in human
DNA is very small compared to other species, possibly suggesting a
population bottleneck during the Late
Pleistocene (around 100,000
years ago), in which the human population was reduced to a small
number of breeding pairs.
Nucleotide diversity is based on
single mutations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The
nucleotide diversity between humans is about 0.1%, i.e. 1 difference
per 1,000 base pairs. A difference of 1 in 1,000 nucleotides
between two humans chosen at random amounts to about 3 million
nucleotide differences, since the human genome has about 3 billion
nucleotides. Most of these single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are
neutral but some (about 3 to 5%) are functional and influence
phenotypic differences between humans through alleles.[citation
By comparing the parts of the genome that are not under natural
selection and which therefore accumulate mutations at a fairly steady
rate, it is possible to reconstruct a genetic tree incorporating the
entire human species since the last shared ancestor. Each time a
certain mutation (SNP) appears in an individual and is passed on to
his or her descendants, a haplogroup is formed including all of the
descendants of the individual who will also carry that mutation. By
comparing mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from the mother,
geneticists have concluded that the last female common ancestor whose
genetic marker is found in all modern humans, the so-called
mitochondrial Eve, must have lived around 90,000 to 200,000 years
Human accelerated regions, first described in August 2006,
are a set of 49 segments of the human genome that are conserved
throughout vertebrate evolution but are strikingly different in
humans. They are named according to their degree of difference between
humans and their nearest animal relative (chimpanzees) (HAR1 showing
the largest degree of human-chimpanzee differences). Found by scanning
through genomic databases of multiple species, some of these highly
mutated areas may contribute to human-specific traits.[citation
The forces of natural selection have continued to operate on human
populations, with evidence that certain regions of the genome display
directional selection in the past 15,000 years.
A 10 mm human embryo at 5 weeks
Boy and girl before puberty
Adolescent male and female
Adult man and woman
Elderly man and woman
See also: Childbirth,
Life expectancy, and
Human development (biology)
As with other mammals, human reproduction takes place as internal
fertilization by sexual intercourse. During this process, the male
inserts his erect penis into the female's vagina and ejaculates semen,
which contains sperm. The sperm travels through the vagina and cervix
into the uterus or Fallopian tubes for fertilization of the ovum. Upon
fertilization and implantation, gestation then occurs within the
The zygote divides inside the female's uterus to become an embryo,
which over a period of 38 weeks (9 months) of gestation becomes a
fetus. After this span of time, the fully grown fetus is birthed from
the woman's body and breathes independently as an infant for the first
time. At this point, most modern cultures recognize the baby as a
person entitled to the full protection of the law, though some
jurisdictions extend various levels of personhood earlier to human
fetuses while they remain in the uterus.
Compared with other species, human childbirth is dangerous. Painful
labors lasting 24 hours or more are not uncommon and sometimes lead to
the death of the mother, the child or both. This is because of
both the relatively large fetal head circumference and the mother's
relatively narrow pelvis. The chances of a successful labor
increased significantly during the 20th century in wealthier countries
with the advent of new medical technologies. In contrast, pregnancy
and natural childbirth remain hazardous ordeals in developing regions
of the world, with maternal death rates approximately 100 times
greater than in developed countries.
In developed countries, infants are typically 3–4 kg
(7–9 lb) in weight and 50–60 cm (20–24 in) in
height at birth.[not in citation given] However, low birth weight
is common in developing countries, and contributes to the high levels
of infant mortality in these regions. Helpless at birth, humans
continue to grow for some years, typically reaching sexual maturity at
12 to 15 years of age. Females continue to develop physically
until around the age of 18, whereas male development continues until
around age 21. The human life span can be split into a number of
stages: infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood
and old age. The lengths of these stages, however, have varied across
cultures and time periods. Compared to other primates, humans
experience an unusually rapid growth spurt during adolescence, where
the body grows 25% in size. Chimpanzees, for example, grow only 14%,
with no pronounced spurt. The presence of the growth spurt is
probably necessary to keep children physically small until they are
psychologically mature. Humans are one of the few species in which
females undergo menopause. It has been proposed that menopause
increases a woman's overall reproductive success by allowing her to
invest more time and resources in her existing offspring, and in turn
their children (the grandmother hypothesis), rather than by continuing
to bear children into old age.
Evidence-based studies indicate that the life span of an individual
depends on two major factors, genetics and lifestyle choices. For
various reasons, including biological/genetic causes, women live
on average about four years longer than men—as of 2013 the global
average life expectancy at birth of a girl is estimated at 70.2 years
compared to 66.1 for a boy. There are significant geographical
variations in human life expectancy, mostly correlated with economic
development—for example life expectancy at birth in Hong Kong is
84.8 years for girls and 78.9 for boys, while in Swaziland,
primarily because of AIDS, it is 31.3 years for both sexes.
The developed world is generally aging, with the median age around
40 years. In the developing world the median age is between 15
and 20 years. While one in five Europeans is 60 years of age
or older, only one in twenty Africans is 60 years of age or
older. The number of centenarians (humans of age 100 years
or older) in the world was estimated by the
United Nations at 210,000
in 2002. At least one person, Jeanne Calment, is known to have
reached the age of 122 years; higher ages have been claimed
but they are not well substantiated.
Humans living in Bali,
Indonesia preparing a meal.
Venus of Willendorf
Venus of Willendorf statuette from the
Upper Palaeolithic period
Two starved boys during the Russian famine of 1921–22
Humans are omnivorous, capable of consuming a wide variety of plant
and animal material. Varying with available food sources in
regions of habitation, and also varying with cultural and religious
norms, human groups have adopted a range of diets, from purely
vegetarian to primarily carnivorous. In some cases, dietary
restrictions in humans can lead to deficiency diseases; however,
stable human groups have adapted to many dietary patterns through both
genetic specialization and cultural conventions to use nutritionally
balanced food sources. The human diet is prominently reflected in
human culture, and has led to the development of food science.
Until the development of agriculture approximately 10,000 years ago,
Homo sapiens employed a hunter-gatherer method as their sole means of
food collection. This involved combining stationary food sources (such
as fruits, grains, tubers, and mushrooms, insect larvae and aquatic
mollusks) with wild game, which must be hunted and killed in order to
be consumed. It has been proposed that humans have used fire to
prepare and cook food since the time of
Homo erectus. Around ten
thousand years ago, humans developed agriculture, which
substantially altered their diet. This change in diet may also have
altered human biology; with the spread of dairy farming providing a
new and rich source of food, leading to the evolution of the ability
to digest lactose in some adults. Agriculture led to
increased populations, the development of cities, and because of
increased population density, the wider spread of infectious diseases.
The types of food consumed, and the way in which they are prepared,
have varied widely by time, location, and culture.
In general, humans can survive for two to eight weeks without food,
depending on stored body fat. Survival without water is usually
limited to three or four days. About 36 million humans die every year
from causes directly or indirectly related to starvation.
Childhood malnutrition is also common and contributes to the global
burden of disease. However global food distribution is not even,
and obesity among some human populations has increased rapidly,
leading to health complications and increased mortality in some
developed, and a few developing countries. Worldwide over one billion
people are obese, while in the United States 35% of people are
obese, leading to this being described as an "obesity epidemic."
Obesity is caused by consuming more calories than are expended, so
excessive weight gain is usually caused by an energy-dense diet.
Human genetic variation
People in hot climates are often slender and dark skinned, such as
these Maasai men from Kenya.
People in cold climates tend to be lighter skinned such as these Inuit
women from Canada.
No two humans—not even monozygotic twins—are genetically
identical. Genes and environment influence human biological variation
from visible characteristics to physiology to disease susceptibly to
mental abilities. The exact influence of genes and environment on
certain traits is not well understood.
Most current genetic and archaeological evidence supports a recent
single origin of modern humans in East Africa, with first
migrations placed at 60,000 years ago. Compared to the great apes,
human gene sequences—even among African populations—are remarkably
homogeneous. On average, genetic similarity between any two
humans is 99.9%. There is about 2–3 times more genetic
diversity within the wild chimpanzee population, than in the entire
human gene pool.
The human body's ability to adapt to different environmental stresses
is remarkable, allowing humans to acclimatize to a wide variety of
temperatures, humidity, and altitudes. As a result, humans are a
cosmopolitan species found in almost all regions of the world,
including tropical rainforests, arid desert, extremely cold arctic
regions, and heavily polluted cities. Most other species are confined
to a few geographical areas by their limited adaptability.
There is biological variation in the human species—with traits such
as blood type, cranial features, eye color, hair color and type,
height and build, and skin color varying across the globe.
types vary substantially. The typical height of an adult human is
between 1.4 and 1.9 m (4 ft 7 in and 6 ft
3 in), although this varies significantly depending, among other
things, on sex and ethnic origin. Body size is partly
determined by genes and is also significantly influenced by
environmental factors such as diet, exercise, and sleep patterns,
especially as an influence in childhood.
Adult height for each sex in
a particular ethnic group approximately follows a normal distribution.
Those aspects of genetic variation that give clues to human
evolutionary history, or are relevant to medical research, have
received particular attention. For example, the genes that allow adult
humans to digest lactose are present in high frequencies in
populations that have long histories of cattle domestication,
suggesting natural selection having favored that gene in populations
that depend on cow milk. Some hereditary diseases such as sickle cell
anemia are frequent in populations where malaria has been endemic
throughout history—it is believed that the same gene gives increased
resistance to malaria among those who are unaffected carriers of the
gene. Similarly, populations that have for a long time inhabited
specific climates, such as arctic or tropical regions or high
altitudes, tend to have developed specific phenotypes that are
beneficial for conserving energy in those environments—short stature
and stocky build in cold regions, tall and lanky in hot regions, and
with high lung capacities at high altitudes. Similarly, skin color
varies clinally with darker skin around the equator—where the added
protection from the sun's ultraviolet radiation is thought to give an
evolutionary advantage—and lighter skin tones closer to the
The hue of human skin and hair is determined by the presence of
pigments called melanins.
Human skin color
Human skin color can range from darkest
brown to lightest peach, or even nearly white or colorless in cases of
Human hair ranges in color from white to red to blond
to brown to black, which is most frequent.
Hair color depends on
the amount of melanin (an effective sun blocking pigment) in the skin
and hair, with hair melanin concentrations in hair fading with
increased age, leading to grey or even white hair. Most researchers
believe that skin darkening is an adaptation that evolved as
protection against ultraviolet solar radiation, which also helps
balancing folate, which is destroyed by ultraviolet radiation. Light
skin pigmentation protects against depletion of vitamin D, which
requires sunlight to make. Skin pigmentation of contemporary
humans is clinally distributed across the planet, and in general
correlates with the level of ultraviolet radiation in a particular
Human skin also has a capacity to darken (tan) in
response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
Structure of variation
A Libyan, a Nubian, a Syrian, and an Egyptian, drawing by an unknown
artist after a mural of the tomb of Seti I.
The ancestors of Native Americans, such as this
crossed into the Americas from Northeast Asia, and genetic and
linguistic evidence links them to North Asian populations,
particularly those of East Siberia.
An older adult human male European in
Paris – playing chess at the
Jardin du Luxembourg.
Within the human species, the greatest degree of genetic variation
exists between males and females. While the nucleotide genetic
variation of individuals of the same sex across global populations is
no greater than 0.1%, the genetic difference between males and females
is between 1% and 2%. Although different in nature[clarification
needed], this approaches the genetic differentiation between men and
male chimpanzees or women and female chimpanzees. The genetic
difference between sexes contributes to anatomical, hormonal, neural,
and physiological differences between men and women, although the
exact degree and nature of social and environmental influences on
sexes are not completely understood. Males on average are 15% heavier
and 15 cm (6 in) taller than females. There is a difference
between body types, body organs and systems, hormonal levels, sensory
systems, and muscle mass between sexes. On average, men have about
40–50% more upper body strength and 20–30% more lower body
strength than women. Women generally have a higher body fat percentage
than men. Women have lighter skin than men of the same population;
this has been explained by a higher need for vitamin D (which is
synthesized by sunlight) in females during pregnancy and lactation. As
there are chromosomal differences between females and males, some X
and Y chromosome related conditions and disorders only affect either
men or women. Other conditional differences between males and females
are not related to sex chromosomes. Even after allowing for body
weight and volume, the male voice is usually an octave deeper than the
female voice. Women have a longer life span in almost every population
Males typically have larger tracheae and branching bronchi, with about
30% greater lung volume per unit body mass. They have larger hearts,
10% higher red blood cell count, and higher hemoglobin, hence greater
oxygen-carrying capacity. They also have higher circulating clotting
factors (vitamin K, prothrombin and platelets). These differences lead
to faster healing of wounds and higher peripheral pain tolerance.
Females typically have more white blood cells (stored and
circulating), more granulocytes and B and T lymphocytes. Additionally,
they produce more antibodies at a faster rate than males. Hence they
develop fewer infectious diseases and these continue for shorter
periods. Ethologists argue that females, interacting with other
females and multiple offspring in social groups, have experienced such
traits as a selective advantage. According to
Daly and Wilson, "The sexes differ more in human beings than in
monogamous mammals, but much less than in extremely polygamous
mammals." But given that sexual dimorphism in the closest
relatives of humans is much greater than among humans, the human clade
must be considered to be characterized by decreasing sexual
dimorphism, probably due to less competitive mating patterns. One
proposed explanation is that human sexuality has developed more in
common with its close relative the bonobo, which exhibits similar
sexual dimorphism, is polygynandrous and uses recreational sex to
reinforce social bonds and reduce aggression.
Humans of the same sex are 99.9% genetically identical. There is
extremely little variation between human geographical populations, and
most of the variation that does occur is at the personal level within
local areas, and not between populations. Of the 0.1%
of human genetic differentiation, 85% exists within any randomly
chosen local population, be they Italians, Koreans, or Kurds. Two
randomly chosen Koreans may be genetically as different as a Korean
and an Italian. Any ethnic group contains 85% of the human genetic
diversity of the world. Genetic data shows that no matter how
population groups are defined, two people from the same population
group are about as different from each other as two people from any
two different population groups.
Current genetic research has demonstrated that humans on the African
continent are the most genetically diverse. There is more human
genetic diversity in Africa than anywhere else on Earth. The genetic
structure of Africans was traced to 14 ancestral population clusters.
Human genetic diversity decreases in native populations with migratory
distance from Africa and this is thought to be the result of
bottlenecks during human migration. Humans have lived in
Africa for the longest time, which has allowed accumulation of a
higher diversity of genetic mutations in these populations. Only part
of Africa's population migrated out of the continent, bringing just
part of the original African genetic variety with them. African
populations harbor genetic alleles that are not found in other places
of the world. All the common alleles found in populations outside of
Africa are found on the African continent.
Geographical distribution of human variation is complex and constantly
shifts through time which reflects complicated human evolutionary
history. Most human biological variation is clinally distributed and
blends gradually from one area to the next. Groups of people around
the world have different frequencies of polymorphic genes.
Furthermore, different traits are non-concordant and each have
different clinal distribution. Adaptability varies both from person to
person and from population to population. The most efficient adaptive
responses are found in geographical populations where the
environmental stimuli are the strongest (e.g. Tibetans are highly
adapted to high altitudes). The clinal geographic genetic variation is
further complicated by the migration and mixing between human
populations which has been occurring since prehistoric
Human variation is highly non-concordant: most of the genes do not
cluster together and are not inherited together. Skin and hair color
are not correlated to height, weight, or athletic ability. Human
species do not share the same patterns of variation through geography.
Skin color varies with latitude and certain people are tall or have
brown hair. There is a statistical correlation between particular
features in a population, but different features are not expressed or
inherited together. Thus, genes which code for superficial physical
traits—such as skin color, hair color, or height—represent a
minuscule and insignificant portion of the human genome and do not
correlate with genetic affinity. Dark-skinned populations that are
found in Africa, Australia, and South Asia are not closely related to
each other. Even within the same region,
physical phenotype is not related to genetic affinity. Despite pygmy
South East Asia
South East Asia (Andamanese) having similar physical
features with African pygmy populations such as short stature, dark
skin, and curly hair, they are not genetically closely related to
these populations. Genetic variants affecting superficial
anatomical features (such as skin color)—from a genetic perspective,
are essentially meaningless—they involve a few hundred of the
billions of nucleotides in a person's DNA. Individuals with the
same morphology do not necessarily cluster with each other by lineage,
and a given lineage does not include only individuals with the same
Due to practices of group endogamy, allele frequencies cluster locally
around kin groups and lineages, or by national, ethnic, cultural and
linguistic boundaries, giving a detailed degree of correlation between
genetic clusters and population groups when considering many alleles
simultaneously. Despite this, there are no genetic boundaries around
local populations that biologically mark off any discrete groups of
Human variation is continuous, with no clear points of
demarcation. There are no large clusters of relatively homogeneous
people and almost every individual has genetic alleles from several
Main article: Psychology
Human brain and Mind
Drawing of the human brain, showing several important structures
The human brain, the focal point of the central nervous system in
humans, controls the peripheral nervous system. In addition to
controlling "lower," involuntary, or primarily autonomic activities
such as respiration and digestion, it is also the locus of "higher"
order functioning such as thought, reasoning, and abstraction.
These cognitive processes constitute the mind, and, along with their
behavioral consequences, are studied in the field of psychology.
Generally regarded as more capable of these higher order activities,
the human brain is believed to be more "intelligent" in general than
that of any other known species. While some non-human species are
capable of creating structures and using simple tools—mostly through
instinct and mimicry—human technology is vastly more complex, and is
constantly evolving and improving through time.
Sleep and dreaming
Sleep and Dream
Humans are generally diurnal. The average sleep requirement is between
seven and nine hours per day for an adult and nine to ten hours per
day for a child; elderly people usually sleep for six to seven hours.
Having less sleep than this is common among humans, even though sleep
deprivation can have negative health effects. A sustained restriction
of adult sleep to four hours per day has been shown to correlate with
changes in physiology and mental state, including reduced memory,
fatigue, aggression, and bodily discomfort. During sleep humans
dream. In dreaming humans experience sensory images and sounds, in a
sequence which the dreamer usually perceives more as an apparent
participant than as an observer. Dreaming is stimulated by the pons
and mostly occurs during the REM phase of sleep.
Consciousness and thought
Consciousness and Cognition
Humans are one of the relatively few species to have sufficient
self-awareness to recognize themselves in a mirror. Already at 18
months, most human children are aware that the mirror image is not
The human brain perceives the external world through the senses, and
each individual human is influenced greatly by his or her experiences,
leading to subjective views of existence and the passage of time.
Humans are variously said to possess consciousness, self-awareness,
and a mind, which correspond roughly to the mental processes of
thought. These are said to possess qualities such as self-awareness,
sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship
between oneself and one's environment. The extent to which the mind
constructs or experiences the outer world is a matter of debate, as
are the definitions and validity of many of the terms used above.
The physical aspects of the mind and brain, and by extension of the
nervous system, are studied in the field of neurology, the more
behavioral in the field of psychology, and a sometimes loosely defined
area between in the field of psychiatry, which treats mental illness
and behavioral disorders.
Psychology does not necessarily refer to the
brain or nervous system, and can be framed purely in terms of
phenomenological or information processing theories of the mind.
Increasingly, however, an understanding of brain functions is being
included in psychological theory and practice, particularly in areas
such as artificial intelligence, neuropsychology, and cognitive
The nature of thought is central to psychology and related fields.
Cognitive psychology studies cognition, the mental processes'
underlying behavior. It uses information processing as a framework for
understanding the mind. Perception, learning, problem solving, memory,
attention, language and emotion are all well researched areas as well.
Cognitive psychology is associated with a school of thought known as
cognitivism, whose adherents argue for an information processing model
of mental function, informed by positivism and experimental
psychology. Techniques and models from cognitive psychology are widely
applied and form the mainstay of psychological theories in many areas
of both research and applied psychology. Largely focusing on the
development of the human mind through the life span, developmental
psychology seeks to understand how people come to perceive,
understand, and act within the world and how these processes change as
they age. This may focus on intellectual, cognitive, neural, social,
or moral development.
Psychologists have developed intelligence tests
and the concept of intelligence quotient in order to assess the
relative intelligence of human beings and study its distribution among
Some philosophers divide consciousness into phenomenal consciousness,
which is experience itself, and access consciousness, which is the
processing of the things in experience. Phenomenal consciousness
is the state of being conscious, such as when they say "I am
conscious." Access consciousness is being conscious of something in
relation to abstract concepts, such as when one says "I am conscious
of these words." Various forms of access consciousness include
awareness, self-awareness, conscience, stream of consciousness,
Husserl's phenomenology, and intentionality. The concept of phenomenal
consciousness, in modern history, according to some, is closely
related to the concept of qualia.
Social psychology links sociology
with psychology in their shared study of the nature and causes of
human social interaction, with an emphasis on how people think towards
each other and how they relate to each other. The behavior and mental
processes, both human and non-human, can be described through animal
cognition, ethology, evolutionary psychology, and comparative
psychology as well.
Human ecology is an academic discipline that
investigates how humans and human societies interact with both their
natural environment and the human social environment.
Motivation and emotion
Motivation and Emotion
Illustration of grief from Charles Darwin's book The Expression of the
Man and Animals.
Motivation is the driving force of desire behind all deliberate
actions of humans.
Motivation is based on emotion—specifically, on
the search for satisfaction (positive emotional experiences), and the
avoidance of conflict. Positive and negative is defined by the
individual brain state, which may be influenced by social norms: a
person may be driven to self-injury or violence because their brain is
conditioned to create a positive response to these actions. Motivation
is important because it is involved in the performance of all learned
responses. Within psychology, conflict avoidance and the libido are
seen to be primary motivators. Within economics, motivation is often
seen to be based on incentives; these may be financial, moral, or
coercive. Religions generally posit divine or demonic influences.
Happiness, or the state of being happy, is a human emotional
condition. The definition of happiness is a common philosophical
topic. Some people might define it as the best condition that a human
can have—a condition of mental and physical health. Others define it
as freedom from want and distress; consciousness of the good order of
things; assurance of one's place in the universe or society.
Emotion has a significant influence on, or can even be said to
control, human behavior, though historically many cultures and
philosophers have for various reasons discouraged allowing this
influence to go unchecked. Emotional experiences perceived as
pleasant, such as love, admiration, or joy, contrast with those
perceived as unpleasant, like hate, envy, or sorrow. There is often a
distinction made between refined emotions that are socially learned
and survival oriented emotions, which are thought to be innate. Human
exploration of emotions as separate from other neurological phenomena
is worthy of note, particularly in cultures where emotion is
considered separate from physiological state. In some cultural medical
theories emotion is considered so synonymous with certain forms of
physical health that no difference is thought to exist. The Stoics
believed excessive emotion was harmful, while some
Sufi teachers felt
certain extreme emotions could yield a conceptual perfection, what is
often translated as ecstasy.
In modern scientific thought, certain refined emotions are considered
a complex neural trait innate in a variety of domesticated and
non-domesticated mammals. These were commonly developed in reaction to
superior survival mechanisms and intelligent interaction with each
other and the environment; as such, refined emotion is not in all
cases as discrete and separate from natural neural function as was
once assumed. However, when humans function in civilized tandem, it
has been noted that uninhibited acting on extreme emotion can lead to
social disorder and crime.
Sexuality and love
Human parents continue caring for their offspring long after they are
For humans, sexuality has important social functions: it creates
physical intimacy, bonds and hierarchies among individuals, besides
ensuring biological reproduction. Sexual desire or libido, is
experienced as a bodily urge, often accompanied by strong emotions
such as love, ecstasy and jealousy. The significance of sexuality in
the human species is reflected in a number of physical features among
them hidden ovulation, the evolution of external scrotum and (among
great apes) a relatively large penis suggesting sperm competition in
humans, the absence of an os penis, permanent secondary sexual
characteristics and the forming of pair bonds based on sexual
attraction as a common social structure. Contrary to other primates
that often advertise estrus through visible signs, human females do
not have a distinct or visible signs of ovulation, plus they
experience sexual desire outside of their fertile periods. These
adaptations indicate that the meaning of sexuality in humans is
similar to that found in the bonobo, and that the complex human sexual
behavior has a long evolutionary history.
Human choices in acting on sexuality are commonly influenced by
cultural norms which vary widely. Restrictions are often determined by
religious beliefs or social customs. The pioneering researcher Sigmund
Freud believed that humans are born polymorphously perverse, which
means that any number of objects could be a source of pleasure.
According to Freud, humans then pass through five stages of
psychosexual development and can fixate on any stage because of
various traumas during the process. For Alfred Kinsey, another
influential sex researcher, people can fall anywhere along a
continuous scale of sexual orientation, with only small minorities
fully heterosexual or homosexual. Recent studies of neurology and
genetics suggest people may be born predisposed to various sexual
Main articles: Culture, Society, and
Human society statistics
15/km2 (39/sq mi) by total area
51/km2 (132/sq mi) by land area
Tokyo, Delhi, Shanghai, Mumbai, São Paulo, Beijing, Ciudad de
México, Osaka, Cairo, New York-Newark, Dhaka, Karachi, Buenos Aires,
Kolkata, Istanbul, Chongqing, Lagos, Manila, Guangzhou, Rio de
Janeiro, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Moscow, Kinshasa, Tianjin,
Paris, Shenzen, Jakarta, Bangalore, London, Chennai, Lima
Most widely spoken native languages
Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali,
Russian, Japanese, Javanese, German, Lahnda, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil,
French, Vietnamese, Korean, Urdu, Italian, Indonesian, Persian,
Turkish, Polish, Oriya
Most popular religions
Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Baha'i
(US$5,797 per capita)
$51,656,251 million IND
($8,236 per capita)
Humans often live in family-based social structures.
Humans are highly social beings and tend to live in large complex
social groups. More than any other creature, humans are capable of
using systems of communication for self-expression, the exchange of
ideas, and organization, and as such have created complex social
structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups. Human
groups range from the size of families to nations. Social interactions
between humans have established an extremely wide
variety[clarification needed] of values, social norms, and rituals,
which together form the basis of human society.
Culture is defined here as patterns of complex symbolic behavior, i.e.
all behavior that is not innate but which has to be learned through
social interaction with others; such as the use of distinctive
material and symbolic systems, including language, ritual, social
organization, traditions, beliefs and technology.
While many species communicate, language is unique to humans, a
defining feature of humanity, and a cultural universal. Unlike the
limited systems of other animals, human language is open—an infinite
number of meanings can be produced by combining a limited number of
Human language also has the capacity of displacement, using
words to represent things and happenings that are not presently or
locally occurring, but reside in the shared imagination of
Language differs from other forms of communication
in that it is modality independent; the same meanings can be conveyed
through different media, auditively in speech, visually by sign
language or writing, and even through tactile media such as braille.
Language is central to the communication between humans, and to the
sense of identity that unites nations, cultures and ethnic groups. The
invention of writing systems at least five thousand years ago allowed
the preservation of language on material objects, and was a major
technological advancement. The science of linguistics describes the
structure and function of language and the relationship between
languages. There are approximately six thousand different languages
currently in use, including sign languages, and many thousands more
that are extinct.
Gender role and Gender
The sexual division of humans into male and female has been marked
culturally by a corresponding division of roles, norms, practices,
dress, behavior, rights, duties, privileges, status, and power.
Cultural differences by gender have often been believed to have arisen
naturally out of a division of reproductive labor; the biological fact
that women give birth led to their further cultural responsibility for
nurturing and caring for children.
Gender roles have varied
historically, and challenges to predominant gender norms have recurred
in many societies.
Kinship and Marriage
Sessue Hayakawa (left) with actress and wife
Tsuru Aoki in a screen
shot of the 1919 film The Dragon Painter.
All human societies organize, recognize and classify types of social
relationships based on relations between parents and children
(consanguinity), and relations through marriage (affinity). These
kinds of relations are generally called kinship relations. In most
societies kinship places mutual responsibilities and expectations of
solidarity on the individuals that are so related, and those who
recognize each other as kinsmen come to form networks through which
other social institutions can be regulated. Among the many functions
of kinship is the ability to form descent groups, groups of people
sharing a common line of descent, which can function as political
units such as clans. Another function is the way in which kinship
unites families through marriage, forming kinship alliances between
groups of wife-takers and wife-givers. Such alliances also often have
important political and economical ramifications, and may result in
the formation of political organization above the community level.
Kinship relations often includes regulations for whom an individual
should or shouldn't marry. All societies have rules of incest taboo,
according to which marriage between certain kinds of kin relations are
prohibited—such rules vary widely between cultures.
Some societies also have rules of preferential marriage with certain
kin relations, frequently with either cross or parallel cousins. Rules
and norms for marriage and social behavior among kinsfolk is often
reflected in the systems of kinship terminology in the various
languages of the world. In many societies kinship relations can also
be formed through forms of co-habitation, adoption, fostering, or
companionship, which also tends to create relations of enduring
solidarity (nurture kinship).
Main article: Ethnic group
Humans often form ethnic groups, such groups tend to be larger than
kinship networks and be organized around a common identity defined
variously in terms of shared ancestry and history, shared cultural
norms and language, or shared biological phenotype. Such ideologies of
shared characteristics are often perpetuated in the form of powerful,
compelling narratives that give legitimacy and continuity to the set
of shared values. Ethnic groupings often correspond to some level of
political organization such as the band, tribe, city state or nation.
Although ethnic groups appear and disappear through history, members
of ethnic groups often conceptualize their groups as having histories
going back into the deep past. Such ideologies give ethnicity a
powerful role in defining social identity and in constructing
solidarity between members of an ethno-political unit. This unifying
property of ethnicity has been closely tied to the rise of the nation
state as the predominant form of political organization in the 19th
and 20th century.
Society, government, and politics
Main articles: Origins of society, Society, Government, Politics, and
United Nations Headquarters
United Nations Headquarters in New York City, which houses one of
the largest political organizations in the world
Society is the system of organizations and institutions arising from
interaction between humans. Within a society people can be divided
into different groups according to their income, wealth, power,
reputation, etc., but the structure of social stratification and the
degree of social mobility differs, especially between modern and
traditional societies. A state is an organized political
community occupying a definite territory, having an organized
government, and possessing internal and external sovereignty.
Recognition of the state's claim to independence by other states,
enabling it to enter into international agreements, is often important
to the establishment of its statehood. The "state" can also be defined
in terms of domestic conditions, specifically, as conceptualized by
Max Weber, "a state is a human community that (successfully) claims
the monopoly of the 'legitimate' use of physical force within a given
Government can be defined as the political means of creating and
enforcing laws; typically via a bureaucratic hierarchy.
the process by which decisions are made within groups; this process
often involves conflict as well as compromise. Although the term is
generally applied to behavior within governments, politics is also
observed in all human group interactions, including corporate,
academic, and religious institutions. Many different political systems
exist, as do many different ways of understanding them, and many
definitions overlap. Examples of governments include monarchy,
Communist state, military dictatorship, theocracy, and liberal
democracy, the last of which is considered dominant today. All of
these issues have a direct relationship with economics.
Trade and economics
Trade and Economics
Buyers and sellers bargaining in a market in Tengeru, Tanzania
Trade is the voluntary exchange of goods and services, and is a form
of economics. A mechanism that allows trade is called a market. Modern
traders instead generally negotiate through a medium of exchange, such
as money. As a result, buying can be separated from selling, or
earning. Because of specialization and division of labor, most people
concentrate on a small aspect of manufacturing or service, trading
their labor for products.
Trade exists between regions because
different regions have an absolute or comparative advantage in the
production of some tradable commodity, or because different regions'
size allows for the benefits of mass production.
Economics is a social science which studies the production,
distribution, trade, and consumption of goods and services. Economics
focuses on measurable variables, and is broadly divided into two main
branches: microeconomics, which deals with individual agents, such as
households and businesses, and macroeconomics, which considers the
economy as a whole, in which case it considers aggregate supply and
demand for money, capital and commodities. Aspects receiving
particular attention in economics are resource allocation, production,
distribution, trade, and competition. Economic logic is increasingly
applied to any problem that involves choice under scarcity or
determining economic value.
Men in period costume portraying soldiers during a 2011 reenactment of
Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo (1815)
Main article: War
War is a state of organized armed conflict between states or non-state
War is characterized by the use of lethal violence against
others—whether between combatants or upon non-combatants—to
achieve military goals through force. Lesser, often spontaneous
conflicts, such as brawls, riots, revolts, and melees, are not
considered to be warfare. Revolutions can be nonviolent or an
organized and armed revolution which denotes a state of war. During
the 20th century, it is estimated that between 167 and 188 million
people died as a result of war. A common definition defines war
as a series of military campaigns between at least two opposing sides
involving a dispute over sovereignty, territory, resources, religion,
or other issues. A war between internal elements of a state is a civil
war. Among animals, all-out war against fellow members of the same
species occurs only among large societies of humans and ants.[citation
There have been a wide variety of rapidly advancing tactics throughout
the history of war, ranging from conventional war to asymmetric
warfare to total war and unconventional warfare. Techniques include
hand to hand combat, the use of ranged weapons, naval warfare, and,
more recently, air support. Military intelligence has often played a
key role in determining victory and defeat. Propaganda, which often
includes information, slanted opinion and disinformation, plays a key
role both in maintaining unity within a warring group and in sowing
discord among opponents. In modern warfare, soldiers and combat
vehicles are used to control the land, warships the sea, and aircraft
the sky. These fields have also overlapped in the forms of marines,
paratroopers, aircraft carriers, and surface-to-air missiles, among
Satellites in low
Earth orbit have made outer space a factor
in warfare as well through their use for detailed intelligence
gathering; however, no known aggressive actions have been taken from
Material culture and technology
Tool and Technology
An array of
Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads,
chisels, and polishing tools.
Stone tools were used by proto-humans at least 2.5 million years
ago. The controlled use of fire began around 1.5 million
years ago. Since then, humans have made major advances, developing
complex technology to create tools to aid their lives and allowing for
other advancements in culture. Major leaps in technology include the
discovery of agriculture—what is known as the
and the invention of automated machines in the Industrial Revolution.
Archaeology attempts to tell the story of past or lost cultures in
part by close examination of the artifacts they produced. Early humans
left stone tools, pottery, and jewelry that are particular to various
regions and times.
Main articles: Clothing, Body modification, and Haircut
Throughout history, humans have altered their appearance by wearing
clothing and adornments, by trimming or shaving hair or by means
of body modifications.
Body modification is the deliberate altering of the human body for any
non-medical reason, such as aesthetics, sexual enhancement, a rite of
passage, religious reasons, to display group membership or
affiliation, to create body art, shock value, or self-expression.
In its most broad definition it includes plastic surgery, socially
acceptable decoration (e.g. common ear piercing in many societies),
and religious rites of passage (e.g. circumcision in a number of
Philosophy and self-reflection
Chongming Island in Shanghai
Philosophy is a discipline or field of study involving the
investigation, analysis, and development of ideas at a general,
abstract, or fundamental level. It is the discipline searching for a
general understanding of reality, reasoning and values. Major fields
of philosophy include logic, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of
mind, and axiology (which includes ethics and aesthetics). Philosophy
covers a very wide range of approaches, and is used to refer to a
worldview, to a perspective on an issue, or to the positions argued
for by a particular philosopher or school of philosophy.
Religion and spirituality
Religion and Spirituality
Religion is generally defined as a belief system concerning the
supernatural, sacred or divine, and practices, values, institutions
and rituals associated with such belief. Some religions also have a
moral code. The evolution and the history of the first religions have
recently become areas of active scientific
investigation. However, in the course of its
development, religion has taken on many forms that vary by culture and
individual perspective. Some of the chief questions and issues
religions are concerned with include life after death (commonly
involving belief in an afterlife), the origin of life, the nature of
the universe (religious cosmology) and its ultimate fate
(eschatology), and what is moral or immoral. A common source for
answers to these questions are beliefs in transcendent divine beings
such as deities or a singular God, although not all religions are
theistic. Spirituality, belief or involvement in matters of the soul
or spirit, is one of the many different approaches humans take in
trying to answer fundamental questions about humankind's place in the
universe, the meaning of life, and the ideal way to live one's life.
Though these topics have also been addressed by philosophy, and to
some extent by science, spirituality is unique in that it focuses on
mystical or supernatural concepts such as karma and God.
Although the exact level of religiosity can be hard to measure, a
majority of humans professes some variety of religious or spiritual
belief, although many (in some countries a majority) are irreligious.
This includes humans who have no religious beliefs or do not identify
with any religion.
Humanism is a philosophy which seeks to include all
of humanity and all issues common to humans; it is usually
non-religious. Most religions and spiritual beliefs are clearly
distinct from science on both a philosophical and methodological
level; the two are not generally considered mutually exclusive and a
majority of humans hold a mix of both scientific and religious views.
The distinction between philosophy and religion, on the other hand, is
at times less clear, and the two are linked in such fields as the
philosophy of religion and theology.
Art, music, and literature
Main articles: Art, Music, and Literature
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Music (c. 1594), a painting of a woman writing sheet music
by Lorenzo Lippi
Humans have been producing art works at least since the days of
Art may be defined as a form of cultural expression and
the usage of narratives of liberation and exploration (i.e. art
history, art criticism, and art theory) to mediate its boundaries.
This distinction may be applied to objects or performances, current or
historical, and its prestige extends to those who made, found,
exhibit, or own them. In the modern use of the word, art is commonly
understood to be the process or result of making material works that,
from concept to creation, adhere to the "creative impulse" of human
Music is a natural intuitive phenomenon based on the three distinct
and interrelated organization structures of rhythm, harmony, and
melody. Listening to music is perhaps the most common and universal
form of entertainment, while learning and understanding it are popular
disciplines. There are a wide variety of music genres
and ethnic musics. Literature, the body of written—and possibly
oral—works, especially creative ones, includes prose, poetry and
drama, both fiction and non-fiction.
Literature includes such genres
as epic, legend, myth, ballad, and folklore.
Main article: Science
Another unique aspect of human culture and thought is the development
of complex methods for acquiring knowledge through observation,
quantification, and verification. The scientific
method has been developed to acquire knowledge of the physical world
and the rules, processes and principles of which it consists, and
combined with mathematics it enables the prediction of complex
patterns of causality and consequence. An
understanding of mathematics is unique to humans, although other
species of animal have some numerical cognition.
All of science can be divided into three major branches, the formal
sciences (e.g., logic and mathematics), which are concerned with
formal systems, the applied sciences (e.g., engineering, medicine),
which are focused on practical applications, and the empirical
sciences, which are based on empirical observation and are in turn
divided into natural sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, biology) and
social sciences (e.g., psychology, economics, sociology). A
pseudoscience is an activity or a teaching which is mistakenly
regarded as being scientific by its major proponents.
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Dawn of Humanity
Dawn of Humanity – a 2015 PBS film
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Last common ancestors
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