The term paleoanthropology derives from the Ancient Greek palaeos, which means old, anthropos, man, and the suffix logia, which stands for study of. This branch studies the characteristics of the evolution of humans and the reconstruction of the hereditary lines of the family Hominidae. It studies fossils, footprints, bone fragments, skeletal remains, settlement locations and burial places. When possible, it compares the DNA structure of the fossils to predict the changes in the evolutionary kinship of species.
The Hominidae is a primate family, which starts with the great ape, consisted of chimpanzee and gorilla, up to the human genes in the ancients tribe to the modern man.
The term Homo Sapiens was first used in the 18th century, by Carl Linnaeus, in his Systema Naturae study. He was the first to point the similarities between the African apes and the human ancestors, whose fossils were later found in Africa. Charles Darwin published important discoveries in his research study The Descent of Man. Cave men or Neanderthal men, were the species to link the modern man to the great ape species. The well known Origin of Species is the first study to tackle the idea of a biological evolution of species in general.
Asia and Africa were the root sites where the Homo genes were found. The Peking Man ancestor was confirmed with the discovery of one premolar and one molar at 50 km southwest of Beijing in 1918. Further excavations resumed in 1938 revealed cranial, facial, mandibles and teeth that are supposed to represent around 40 individuals. Traces of ash and burned stones and bones gave a brief insight on the life of the Peking Man. Due to Chinese government obstacles, the studies have moved to Africa in 1924. The entire skull of a juvenile specimen, round in shape as the chimpanzee or gorilla, but with a human brain named the Australopithecus Africanus, meaning Southern Ape. The discovery linked the transition between ape and man. After many years of denial, A. Africanus is today considered the direct ancestor of the modern human.