One of the main reasons that the nearly complete skeleton of the “Nariokotome boy” is so important is because it indicates that H. erectus was physically larger than earlier hominids. In fact, it is said that if the “Nariokotome boy” had lived to see adulthood, he would have probably grown to be over 6 feet in height.
The increased height and weight in H. erectus, as indicated by the “Nariokotome boy” skeleton fossil, are also associated with a dramatic increase in robusticity. This heavy built body dominated hominid evolution through the long transitional era of pre-modern forms as well as during H. erectus times. (Pg. 300) It wasn’t until the appearance of anatomically modern H. sapiens that a more gracile skeletal structure emerged and interesting enough, still characterizes most modern populations.
As the textbook discussed and emphasized, brain size is closely related and tied to overall body size. The estimated 25% to 40% increase in cranial capacity and brain size is an important fact that demonstrates that the Homo erectus species was considerably larger overall than earlier members of the genus Homo. As the common trend of “the larger the brain, the higher the level of intelligence” has predicted among the evolution of species, it is to wonder why the Homo erectus species wasn’t more intelligent than their “size” indicated. Especially since it appears that this species evolved rapidly and contained large cranial capacities and brains. More recent evidence indicates though that the Homo erectus crania displayed a highly distinctive shape with a wide base when compared with earlier and later Homo species.
However, many scientists are now convinced that more than one species of early Homo existed in East Africa around 2 mya. Perhaps, further observation, research and future discoveries, will provide us with more answers than questions.
Nevertheless, the Homo erectus species is still to be noted as an important evolutionary era for the Homo genus in general. Besides the obvious increased skeletal structure, the evolution of the multipurpose tools that came forth with the Homo erectus species is definitely extraordinary.
Reference: Jurmain, Robert; Kilgore, Lynn; Trevathan, Wenda; Ciochon, Russell. 2008. Introduction to Physical Anthropology, Eleventh Edition. Thomson Wadsworth, a part of The Thomson Corporation