Homo habilis is an archaic species of Stone Age human which lived

between roughly 2.1 and 1.5 million years ago, during the Early Pleistocene. The species was first discovered by anthropologists Mary and Louis Leakey at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania in 1955, associated with the Oldowan stone tool industry.

The first confirmed remains found at Olduvai consist of several teeth and a lower jaw associated with fragments of a cranium and some hand bones. As more specimens were unearthed at locations such as Koobi Fora in northern Kenya, researchers began to realize that these hominins were anatomically different from Australopithecus, a genus of more-apelike creatures whose remains had been found at many African sites. Formal announcement of the discoveries was made in 1964 by anthropologists Louis S.B. Leakey, Phillip Tobias, and John Napier. As justification for designating their new creature Homo rather than Australopithecus, they described the increased cranial capacity and comparatively smaller molar and premolar teeth of the fossils, a humanlike foot, and hand bones that suggested an ability to manipulate objects with precision—hence the species name Homo habilis, or “handy man.” Furthermore, simple stone tools were found along with the fossils. All these characteristics foreshadow the anatomy and behaviour of H. erectus and later humans, making H. habilis extremely important, even though there are few remnants of it.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.