A long time ago, something hominoid left footprints in a stretch of African mud.
There is no doubt about it. Human beings change things. They are active generators of change. They change the ecology they inhabit. They eat leaves. Trees die. The grass grows. New types of edibles appear.
Hominoids change the way they propel themselves through the tall grass as they look for the edibles. They walk upright. Courage, intelligence and experimentation help them control fire and adapt natural materials such as wood and stone into tools.
Hominoids remain hominoids because they behave like animals.
Models for the classic iconography of the caveman, the big boned, muscular Neanderthals occupied eco-niches throughout Europe but they were not human. Humanoid, but not humans. They have a unique anatomy and they have humanoid behaviours such as they care for injured siblings and bury their dead. But again, they are not human. Humans are something different. They are sapient.
But there, in the same eco-system,at the same time,a different kind of human, homo sapien sapien, appears.
Homo sapien sapien are more upright with a more brain friendly cranium. They possess objects of ornamentation, pierced beads and carvings of fat females. Ornaments made of shells are found far from the sea. They were carried there by trade or migration.
These are people who altered their environment with conscious purpose. Symbols and images are carved and sprayed and daubed onto the stone cave walls. Clearings and circles are formed around fires where people can gather.
Genetic evidence, mother-only mitocondrial DNA, suggests that Homo Sapien Sapien simply replaced Neanderthal. However, an assimilation theory speculating that these separate species interbred and evolved has some appeal amongst followers of the subject. But the Homo Sapiens dominated. We are homo sapiens. Nothing else. We are different, defined, unique. We are conscious and manipulative. We believe things and we nuture and reproduce those beliefs.