Use of replica fossils, lithic tools and hominin skulls in a high school classroom in Nova Viçosa, BA

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FARAH, Leonardo de Castro [1]

FARAH, Leonardo de Castro. Use of replica fossils, lithic tools and hominin skulls in a high school classroom in Nova Viçosa, BA. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 06, Ed. 04, Vol. 11, pp. 48-70. April 2021. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link:


This article aims to disseminate the results of a survey conducted in the classroom using several replicas of fossils. The research was divided into three parts: 1st part would be introductory on the History of Nova Viçosa – BA (Population, Sociocultural reality, Religiosity, Economics and Educational Indexes); Part 2 was to introduce the replicas to the students, in the classroom, of the 1st year of high school. The third part would be the results of the questionnaire that the students did and if they were able to understand the subject addressed. The objectives proposed in this article are: 1) to arouse curiosity; 2) to explain how the anthropogenic process took place; 3) a test to find out if the students understood the subject. The results obtained after the tests were: 1) the students were able to understand the relationship between the environment and the diet of specimen 2°) there was great difficulty in understanding the evolutionary process of the human being (anthropogeny). To correct this it would be necessary to structure the School’s Politico-Pedagogical Project, emphasizing the teaching of Paleoanthropology.

Keywords: use of replicas in the classroom, anthropogenics, correction of the lag.


Paleoanthropology is a junction between Biological Sciences (Paleontology) and Human Sciences (Anthropology), having emerged in the 2nd half of the 19th century with the objective of studying the origin of the human being: its locomotion (bipedalism), its form of communication using syntax (speech) and its cultural development (the lithic industries produced by the first humans). Thus, Paleoanthropology tries to understand how, when and why a particular primate group evolved and became a human being (GOODRUM, 2000, p. 12). The object of Paleoanthropology is the study of fossils[2] of hominins[3]. We know that there are physical differences between hominin and monos close to us, Chimpanzees and Bonobos. These differences would be, for example, small canines and erect walking (bipedia) (LOVEJOY, 2009).

Unfortunately, Brazil lacks publications in books or magazines with this theme. There are no undergraduate or graduate courses or online courses in this area. There are no symposia with theorists. With regard to the content of human evolution in history textbooks, we can affirm two things: 1) difficulty of authors in understanding how the human evolutionary process occurred; 2º) existence of information gap that is reflected in the content of the textbook (MORAES and ALVES, 2007).

These difficulties make most history teachers unaware of the theme in its entirety and therefore avoid approaching it in the classroom. To make matters worse, there are no laboratories in most public schools in the country hindering the teaching-learning process (SANTOS and SANTOS, 2018). Our goal would be to explain how the human evolutionary process took place, which for this we took several replicas to the classroom (Table 1):


Trilobites and the skull of a Thrinaxodon (Cynodont)
Lithic industries: Olduvaiense and Acheulense.
Dames of Brassempouy and Willendorf
Preaustralopitecines, Australopithecins, Paranthropus and Homo.

Source: Leonardo de Castro Farah Collection

The target audience of the research were the students of the 1st year of high school at the head office of Nova Viçosa-BA, located in the extreme south of Bahia. During the classes there were cases of students feeling uncomfortable studying the theme, because it was in line with their religious beliefs. On the other hand, this proposal aroused the interest of many students.

The goal of bringing the replicas to the classroom would be an attempt to facilitate the understanding of evolutionary processes and create, in the future, multidisciplinary projects, to take this initiative to other schools in other cities. For this, the research was divided into three phases. The 1st Phase/class: an oral and theoretical explanation about human evolution; 2nd phase/class: use of the replicas mentioned above, to illustrate the theoretical class; 3rd phase/class: a questionnaire was elaborated to measure students’ learning before and after theoretical and practical classes. This article was divided into three parts: the first part is information about Nova Viçosa (political, sociocultural, economic and school structure). The second part is the description of practical classes and the introduction of replicas in the classroom. And the 3rd part is the results obtained by the questionnaire answered by the students before and after the use of this teaching material.

Both in the theoretical and practical classes, the ideas of Stephen J. Gould, Don Johanson, Walter Neves, Peter de Menocal and Rick Potts were used. The latter suggest that climate change occurring between 3 and 2 million years has left Africa drier/drier, and this has led to the emergence of the genus Homo. To explain how the process of human evolution took place, a model divided into four stages was developed, as shown in Table 2.


1st STEP (7.0-3.0 M.A) Emergence of bipedalism and small canines.
2nd STEP (3.0-2.0 M. A) Making lithic tools.
3rd STEP (2,-0.5 M. A) Introduction to Cooking – Reduction of the intestine and prognathism. Development of proto-language combined with hunting.
4th STEP (0.5-0.03 M. A) Emergence of Homo sapiens and the development of the “Creative Explosion of the Upper Paleolithic“.

Source: FARAH, 2021.


The city of Nova Viçosa is located in the extreme south of Bahia, 745 km from Belo Horizonte MG, 362 km from Vitória ES and 989 km from Salvador, BA. The municipality covers an area of 1,317 km2, having been founded in 1720. At the beginning of the 18th century, much of the extreme south of Bahia had indigenous settlements, when João Domingos Monteiro founded the city. Between 1720-1740 the Mother Church of Nossa Senhora da Imaculada Conceição was built and an urban project was created for the city, which is strategically located at the mouth of two rivers: Pau and Peruípe. In 1798 the city became a village. In the 19th and 20th century, Nova Viçosa became a district of Mucuri and later of Caravelas. Emancipation only came on October 23, 1962 (ALBUQUERQUE, 2006). With the emancipation, Nova Viçosa incorporated new districts: Helvécia, Posto da Mata and Argolo (most populated places). Barra Velha, 87, Ponte (less populated places).

In the 1960s, the company Elecunha S/A left São Mateus-ES and settled in Nova Viçosa for “wood processing“. The installation of this company modified the urban life of the city and enabled economic development. It is known that Elecunha as well as the DER of Bahia participated in the construction of the road, which connected Nova Viçosa to the BR-101[4] (a distance of 80 km). The creation of the highway was important for Elecunha, because it flowed all the production of the extreme south of Bahia, creating nuclei of human occupation around the road (ALBUQUERQUE, 2006).

Even with the economic development promoted by Elecunha it was very difficult to move by land to Nova Viçosa. In the 1940s and 1950s there was no specific bus line connecting Nova Viçosa to other cities. There were no paved roads. There were no gas stations, shops, supermarkets, public telephone, piped water and electric light in the city. We can conclude that the city was isolated from the rest of Brazil and its events[5]. The only way to travel that the inhabitants had access to was to use the arms of the Peruípe and Pau rivers as roads to reach Alcobaça and Caravelas. The objective of this displacement was supply and trade (barter). The production made by Elecunha was drained by sea, using the sea as a road to Rio de Janeiro (ALBUQUERQUE, 2006).

Until the 1960s, there was a railroad connecting Teófilo Otoni-MG to Caravelas-BA (Ponta de Areia). It was the Bahia-Minas Railroad, founded in 1882, that connected the Northeast of Minas Gerais with the south of Bahia (Mucuri Valley). Along the way there were several stops, in Argolo, Posto da Mata, Helvécia and Posto 87. Over the years there began to be human occupations around the train stops, and thus new cities were born (ALBUQUERQUE, 2006).

However, the maintenance of the railroad was very costly for the federal government. Because of this, the military government (1964-1985) had no interest in maintaining it, and decided to shut down its activities in 1966. To compensate for the loss of the Railroad in the extreme south, the military government (1964-1985) created in the 1960s the “Rodovia do Bo” or the BR-418 that connects Teófilo Otoni-MG to Caravelas-BA the same route as the old Railroad. The new road was easy to maintain and involved little human material. Initially, the highway was dirt, the asphalt only appeared in the 80’s (ALBUQUERQUE, 2006).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Elecunha closed its factory causing a major economic recession in the city. As a result, many people who depended on the company to take their livelihood had to survive on something else. Many left the city to live in the capitals. On the other hand, at the same time, the development of Tourism began in the city, which brought shops, public telephone and electricity (NEVES, 2003).


According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the estimated population of the municipality for 2018 was 42,950 inhabitants. However, taking into account only the headquarters of the municipality is estimated at 9,657 inhabitants by the sensu of 2010. The IDEB[6] 2017 measured the school performance of students and municipal and state schools in Nova Viçosa. The result obtained was that the best scores of the municipality occurred in the initial years (Fundamental I) of 5-11 years, with a score of 5.0. In Fundamental II, which has students from 11-15 years, the grade was 3.4. And in high school, the grade was 2.3. In Bahia, the overall high school score at IDEB is 2.7. In parallel to this, there is an increasing rate of schooling in the municipality that would be 97%, among students aged 6-14 years. Another problem detected was that as students progressfrom Elementary School I to High School, grades dropped precipitously. What would be the explanation for that? These distortions have several causes as shown in Table 3:


High dropout rate in Brazil (24.3% mec data for 2017), while in Uruguay 4.8%, Argentina 6.2% and Chile 2.6%.
Lack of motivation of the teacher and students.
Lack of practical classes (in certain subjects), which help in the intellectual development of the student – lack of Laboratory and Library (lack of playful use in classes). So the classes lose their charm.
Lack of proper lunch.
Absence of the family of the school environment.

Source: MORALES & ALVES, 2016.

According to IBGE, the average salary of the inhabitants of Nova Viçosa would be two minimum wages (data from 2017). The HDI of the city, which values health, income and education within a country, has a value of 0.654. According to IBGE data (2010) 42.7% of the population of Nova Viçosa lives on 1/2 minimum wage per month. Only 14.4% are active (either in the public sector or in the private sector). In addition, Gomes et al (2007) realized that there are relationships between the socioeconomic situation of parents and their children’s school performance:

Numa visão mais abrangente, alguns estudiosos têm analisado a relação entre o desempenho acadêmico dos alunos e o estado nutricional. Malta et al. (1998) realizaram um estudo cujo objetivo foi o de verificar a existência de associação entre repetência escolar, medidas antropométricas e variáveis socioeconômicas em crianças da primeira série do primeiro grau. Foi desenvolvido um estudo acompanhando 699 crianças em quatro escolas de Belo Horizonte. Após ajustamento por variáveis de controle verificaram que as crianças cujas mães apresentavam menos escolaridade e exerciam ocupações não qualificadas estavam sob maior risco de repetência (GOMES et al, 2007).

To make matters worse, not only in the State of Bahia, but also in other places, there are cases of lack of lunch in the school unit. Gomes et al (2007) also detected the relationship between school meals and pedagogical performance of students. With this, a good diet helps in school performance in the early years:

[…] Já Glewwe et al. (1999) utilizaram uma grande base de dados com observações de crianças Filipinas da nascença até o primeiro ano escolar, provendo informações referentes ao nível nutricional dessas crianças em seus primeiros anos de vida e a subsequente performance escolar, medidas a partir de testes de conhecimento. Esse estudo combinou informações longitudinais da criança com os dados de suas irmãs, para investigar o elo entre nutrição e aprendizado. A conclusão foi a de que a qualidade nutricional nos primeiros anos de vida aumentou o desempenho acadêmico. Também constataram que crianças malnutridas apresentaram um pior desempenho escolar (GOMES et al, 2007).

Even with these difficulties, between 2014-2018 the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research Anísio Teixeira (Inep), showed that the school performance rate (approval/disapproval) had a significant improvement in approval numbers and a slight decrease in cases of school evasion (dropout)[7]. In contrast, in 2018, Rede Globo’s G1 Portal stated that 4 out of 10 18-year-old students did not complete high school in 2018. Unfortunately, the Brazilian reality in which the student is inserted is still very unfavorable.


Since the foundation of Nova Viçosa, religion has been present in its society. They say that since the 19th century there have been several religious festivals, such as the feast of St. Sebastian, which takes place in the second half of January, culminating in the feast of Christians and Moors. Another religious festivity is the boat procession of St. Peter, which takes place in July every year. And other parties that had been lost with time: Save Queen, for example. According to IBGE 2010, the predominant religion in the city is the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion having 63% of the population, while 36.05% are considered Evangelicals of various denominations. The number of people without defined religion is 4,815 people (14.83%). It’s a high number for a small town. Of course, between 2010 and 2019 the numbers may have varied. On the other hand, there are about 30 Churches of various Christian denominations.

The causes can be divided into three factors: 1) the end of the isolation of the head office of Nova Viçosa, from the end of the 80’s, motivated by the emption of the BR-481 in the Teófilo Otoni stretch to Posto da Mata. This paving allowed the contact of people and a great cultural and religious exchange. 2) factor was the increase in literacy of the population. According to IBGE, in 1950, 50% of Brazil’s population was illiterate. In 1990 this rate fell to 20% and in 2000, it fell to 13.6%. This allowed the population to have access to reading such as the Bible. 3) factor was the development of Tourism, started in the late 1980s increasing social contact.


Catholic Church (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the Chapel of St. Peter).
Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
World Church of the Power of God.
Assembly of God and its denominations (Cadeeso, Madureira and Bom Retiro).
World Church of the Kingdom of God.
Christian Congregation of Brazil.
IDERP (Church of God of Pentecostal Revivament).
Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Maranata Church
Evangelical Tabernacle Church of Jesus – House of Blessing.
Baptist Conventions in Brazil and their denominations (1st Baptist Church, Memorial and Calvary).
God is Love.
Hall of the Kingdom of Jehovah’s Witnesses.


The 2010 IBGE Census suggests that the evangelical religion in Brazil would have increased by about 61% between 2000-2010, while the Catholic Church lost 1.3% of the faithful in the same period (BEGUOCI, 2015).

The rise of evangelism initiated since the late 1980s caused many cities and states in Brazil such as Rondônia, Bahia, Mato Grosso and df to adopt laws to celebrate a specific day of the year, called Evangelical Day. This celebration takes place every year, in some parts of Brazil, on November 30.


With regard to religion among students in Nova Viçosa in all rooms surveyed, the evangelical religion has the highest number, with 60%. The Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion appears in second place with 31%. And the spiritist religion and those without defined religion appear together in third place, with 8.2%.


The target audience adopted were the students of the 1st Year of High School of the school year 2018-2019 of the day, being approximately 130 students from four classrooms. Of 130 students, only 113 are frequent and of these only 80 students answered the questionnaire. We know that the majority of the population of Nova Viçosa is composed of young people between 14-18 years. Coincidentally is the audience of this research[8]. To avoid inconvenience, the anonymity of the name of the school and the students who were part of this research is maintained.


The aim of the research is to stimulate the teaching of human evolution in the extreme south of Bahia, bringing to the lay public the replicas cited and promoting a discussion about how and why anthropogenics would have occurred, so that it can break with prejudices about human origins. To this end, the students had the opportunity to handle the replicas by measuring the cranial volume of the hominins.


The students of the city’s high school have a very large deficit in the text interpretation. This is directly reflected in the IDEB notes. Less than 5% of students enrolled in the 3rd year, enter a Higher Education Course.

Em 2010, 80,54% da população de 6 a 17 anos do município estavam cursando o ensino básico regular com até dois anos de defasagem idade-série. Em 2000 eram 69,70% e, em 1991, 67,04%. Dos jovens adultos de 18 a 24 anos, 4,05% estavam cursando o ensino superior em 2010. Em 2000 eram 1,09% e, em 1991, 0,00% (ATLAS DE DESENVOLVIMENTO HUMANO, online)

The increase in the number of young adults attending an undergraduate course between 1991 and 2010 can be explained by the federal government’s projects. FIES, SISU, PROUNI and the grades obtained in the ENEM made the low-income student enter public or private colleges. It is very likely that the number of undergraduates today has increased. The reasons for most students do not enter a higher education course are diverse, and such as the distance between Nova Viçosa and the College (which is located, in Teixeira de Freitas, about 240 km round trip). The lack of motivation and lack of work make this impossibility. Often, these students will live in capitals, with the aim of getting jobs. And unfortunately, most of the population lives on an income of ½ minimum wage per month, and there is not enough money to pay for the bus to college.



High school students have an enormous difficulty separating the emergence of the Universe from the emergence of life and human evolution. According to Izaguirry et al (2013), the causes for this deficiency reflect the minimum visibility on Paleontology, being a subject distant from the student.

Isso se deve à dificuldade e, muitas vezes, à falta de conhecimentos específicos, metodologias diferenciadas e materiais didáticos que aproximem os educandos de temas que não raro tornam-se abstratos pela forma como são abordados em sala de aula (IZAGUIRRY et al, 2013).

The difficulty of understanding the subject can be attributed to misinterpretation of text and low levels of understanding of Geology and Paleontology. There is little disclosure of these areas in the school. In a survey similar to ours by Sutherland E L’abbé (2019) dealing with human evolution in the classroom in public schools in South Africa, the authors concluded that:


Students and teachers are unaware of the subject;
Curricula and textbooks are lagging behind or inaccurate(late);
Occurrence of failure in the message of those students who want to learn the subject (perhaps, it is difficulty in interpreting text, on the part of the student) and;
Religion helps prevent the development of this subject in the classroom.

Source: SUTHERLAND and L’ABBÉ, 2019.

Deeply held religious views in the country, especially Christianity, remain a stumbling block towards understanding and accepting evolution. The lack of scientific literacy allows for the continuation of Social Darwinism and racial stereotypes and deprives the victims of those ills of the knowledge and mechanisms of thought to counter these ideas. This review explores the relatively sparse but nevertheless well-conducted research into evolution education in South Africa[9]. (SUTHERLAND and L’ABBÉ, 2019).

The teaching of Human Evolution in South Africa and Nova Viçosa-BA is similar. We see this even in socioeconomic, cultural and religious indices. For Sutherland and L’abbé (2019) these indicators create an environment conducive to poor understanding of learning in the classroom.


Nova Viçosa: 0.6540 Nova Viçosa: 0.6230
South Africa: 0.699 South Africa: 0.6340

Source: and

Sutherland and L’abbé (2019) realized that Social Darwinism and racism are still present in South African society and this is used as a weapon to derail the study of human evolution in public schools. As far as we know, during the government of Apartheid (National Education System that served, between 1967-1994) little emphasis was placed on the study of evolution. The Apartheid government did not want to put in textbooks the idea that all human beings in the world descend directly from the Khoisan or Bantu people originating in South Africa, who were directly persecuted by the regime. Therefore, they tried to limit the study of human evolution, although there are several sites of relevance in the country and of great importance to the scientific community[10]. In the United States, Pobiner and Beardsley (2018) wrote an article that alleges that teachers have conflicts in the classroom because of “cultural barriers“, when the subject evolution is explained. The researchers concluded that 20% of high school students, 52% of undergraduate students and 65% of graduate students claim that evolution is a scientific fact (POBINER and BEARDSLEY, 2018), concluding that the lower the person’s education, the lower their ignorance.

O distanciamento entre a linguagem cientifica e a cotidiana, o fato de o currículo escolar não levar em conta a experiência de vida dos alunos e o reduzido conhecimento geocientífico na formação de professores são fatores que fomentam esse problema (BERGQVIST e PRESTES, 2014).

Pobiner and Beardsley (2018) suggested that students with established religious beliefs have difficulty accepting evolution as a scientific fact. Precisely because they do not know the scientific method this reflects in tensions in the classroom. Students worry that evolution would be an affront to their religious culture. To solve this, Bergqvist E Prestes (2014) proposed playful and visual practices that can be used inside or outside the classroom (Table 7).


Take a guided tour of the Natural History Museums.
Use computer science to disseminate science: DVD, CD-ROM and images.
Make the student participate in the biological fact.

Source: BERGQVIST & PRESTES, 2014.


The time used for the theoretical and practical classes lasted fifty minutes each. Before these classes took place, there was a moment of debate with the students to ask questions. As has already been said, we emphasize that evolution has nothing to do with progress, order or improvement of a living being. We take this moment to explain that the Big Bang Theory is studied by astrophysicists, while human evolution is studied by bioanthropologists, being therefore two separate sciences.

In the first class, the basics of evolutionary biology were presented, such as: what is Paleoanthropology and what does it study? What is a hominin? What are fossils and how do they form? Explain what the difference is between a human ancestor of an ancestor of a chimpanzee. There were two classes using Power Point and replicas. In the second class we focus on several subjects: what causes evolution? What is the importance of geographical isolation? And we came to the practical class explaining The Four Stages of Human Evolution, having a greater interaction of students with the replicas. We take the opportunity to affirm that evolution is blind. For this we measured the cranial volume of Homo heidelbergensis and compared it with the cranial volume of the oldest hominins (Ardipithecus and australopithecus). Homo heidelbergensis is known to have a cranial volume between 1000-1100cc, while australopithecus had a volume of 400-500cc. And we ask: what would have caused an increase in human brain capacity?


The students had the opportunity to handle replicas, realizing that the evolution of any being is complex. In short, the contact of the students with the replicas made them more participative, interested and wanted to answer the questionnaire applied. But it is worth noting that most realized that isolation combined with accumulated environmental changes can bring changes in the diet and then in the anatomy of living beings. And they also realized that evolution itself happens by numerous factors (Table 8).


Absence/Increase of Predation.
Food shortages.
Reproductive competition (right to mating).
Long periods of drought/flooding.
Formation of a geographical barrier causing isolation (Vicariance).
Migration of living beings to another habitat (Dispersion).
Changes in survival strategy, diet and environmental/climate change.

Source: FARAH, 2021.

Students’ contact with the replicas caused the expected impact of drawing attention. The use of the replicas aimed to arouse interest in the subject and this was beneficial, helping to boost the class and hold their attention.

Fósseis são restos ou vestígios de seres outrora vivos. Fósseis são enigmáticos, pois, mesmo quando completos, revelam apenas parte de si e de sua história e, por esse motivo, tornam-se muito atrativos, pois instigam a curiosidade humana (BERGQVIST e PRESTES, 2014, p 348).


To explain how the evolution of the human being occurred, we adopted the thesis of the American Museum of Natural History, NY summarized in four stages: Step 1: occurs with the reduction of canines and the development of bipedalism (Sahelanthropus and Ardipithecus). It is good to stress to the students that the Sahelanthropus, the Ardipithecus and the australopithepines had small brains (350-450cc) and lived in a forest environment, rather than living in the open. Students were told that the period of time between the 1st and 2nd Stage would have taken approximately 4 million years[11]. The reason for this would be climate stability. After 3 million years, the hominins changed their survival strategy by changing their diet and this gave rise to the appearance of the genus Homo.

We know that Sahelanthropus was on two legs, even though we don’t have the bones of the lower limbs. Orrorin tugenensis, dated 6.0 million years, had a femur similar to modern humans (SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN BRASIL, 2003). However, there is no skull of this species, which is part of its skeleton. It is to remind students that bipedia happened before the brain increase (700cc), which is the second stage.

FIGURE 1 – On the left, the Sahelanthropus tchadensis and the right ardipithecus ramidus. The Sahelanthropus lived about 7.0 million years in Chad, this hominin was the first biped. The other skull is by Ardi, who lived in Ethiopia about 4.4 million years ago. Both walked under two legs, and so the two are human ancestors because of this locomotion. Below are the first lithic tools created by the genus: Homo. The Olduvaiense industry (Olduvai, Tanzania – dated in: 2.5-1.5 million years) and Acheulense (Saint-Acheul, France – dated 1.8 million years to 500,000 years).

Collection of Leonardo de Castro Farah.

The 2nd Stage occurred thanks to the increase in brain volume (650-750cc), with the appearance of Homo habilis. Potts and deMenocal (agree) that in the last 10 million years ago, the Earth has begun a process of global cooling. Between 3-2 million years climate change has occurred, making Africa more dry/arid (POTTS, 1996). This climate allowed the emergence of two genera: Paranthropus and Homo. The emergence of these two genera coincides with a strong climate change worldwide: the Ice Ages.

Second, Aaron O’Dea et al (2016) around 2.8 million years ago the formation of the Isthmus of Panama occurred. Perhaps this has triggered global environmental change by altering pacific/atlantic sea currents by cooling the Earth.

Regarding the handling of the replicas, by the students they realized that the molars of Paranthopus were much larger when compared to those of Homo habilis. What’s more, the students also realized that at the top of the head of the Paranthropus is a sagittal crest, similar to what we see in gorillas. This shows that Paranthropus was specialized in hard foods such as roots, tubers, fruits and seeds, while H. habilis had a much more varied diet (omnivorous) having small molars like ours (NEVES et al, 2015).

Stage 3, on the other hand, occurred when Homo erectus emerged in Africa, around 2.0 million years old. This stage marks two events: 1st) the emergence of new forms of tools (Acheulense); 2) cooking – or the use of controlled fires. With cooking, the human brain has increased in size from 800 to 1200cc. Richard Wrangham and Suzana Herculano-Houzel of UFRJ suggest that monos spend more time feeding a day (8 hours a day), while we humans spend a maximum of 2 hours a day to eat (WRANGHAM, 2010). Cooking caused the reduction of the intestine, the increase of the cerebral cavity from 700 to 1100cc and the development of a proto-language and the reduction of the face.

Finally, the 4th Stage marks the artistic development of the human being. The brain increase enabled the development of language with syntax, being possible to perform various tasks, such as the establishment of rock paintings, the manufacture of clothes and body adornments and sculptures called Venus. There was also the development of new weapons and new tools to be used by new humans, Homo sapiens. Stage 4 is marked by the “Creative Explosion of the Upper Paleolithic“, which was a moment in human prehistory when we began to manipulate symbols.

FIGURE 2 – Below would be: the Venus de Brassempouy (discovered in France) on the left and right, the Venus of Willendorf (discovered in Austria). Both were dated to the time of the Upper Paleolithic (50,000 to 10,000 years), at a time when the artistic development of our human species took place.

Collection of Leonardo de Castro Farah.


It has been said that evolution is blind. Let’s deal here with the discovery of fossils on The Island of Flores: the nose elephant and Homo floresiensis. Both were found in 2003-2004 by an international team in Indonesia. The hominin measured 1 meter tall, weighed about 40 kg and its brain volume was 350-400cc. He made stone tools and cooked. Cooking should increase the brain and not decrease. That’s contradictory. That’s the first blind spot. The Hobbit’s skull was introduced to the students being compared to the other human species. Everyone realized that it was an adaptation to the environment with limited water, space and food.

The Hobbit suffered from insular nism which is an evolutionary mechanism that occurs thanks to isolation and natural selection that favors those individuals who can adapt to the limited environment by having little food and water. On this island a second elephant described as Stegodon floresensis (PALMER, 2010) was discovered. Nanism can occur in other isolated places such as oasis, sealed caves and isolated islands. In paleontology, insular nism is well known and was described by two scientists: Franz Nopcsa (1877-1933) and Georges Busk (1807-1886).

However, living in the same environment as H. floresiensis and the baby elephant were found on the island a giant rat: Papagomys armandvillei 75 cm long (three times larger than an ordinary rat) (PALMER, 2010). This is the second blind spot that explains why the rat on Flower Island was so big. In this case there was the reverse. The rat had more access to the various foods left by hobbits and this could have favored the birth of an ever-growing litter with more food available, which arose from gigantism (MORWOOD and JUNGERS, 2009).


Below is presented the Questionnaire applied after classes

1) Have you been able to understand the relationship between space (environment) and food?


2) Did you understand the importance of cooking in human evolution?


3) Cite the subject you don’t understand. If you understand another subject, talk about it.


4) Do you know how to enumerate the four stages of Human Evolution?


5) Did you like the presentation or not? Please give your position below.


FIGURE 3 – Using the school’s space, the 1st year group gathered there so that they could participate in the classes, handle the replicas (below: from left to right: bonobo skull, Homo sapiens, Neanderthal and H. heidelbergensis. Behind are Australopithecus, Sahelanthropus and Homo ergaster and H. Floresisensis). The cranial volume of some hominins was measured. The objective here would be to arouse the interest of students in this matter.

Collection of Leonardo de Castro Farah.

FIGURE 4 – The comparison between Homo floresiensis on the left and the classic Homo erectus on the right, showing insular nismo, which would be a biological condition in which the specimen is confined in a small space with few natural resources.

Collection of Leonardo de Castro Farah.


After the classes, the students answered the questionnaire above with five questions about the theoretical classes. Only 80 students out of 113 participated in the theoretical and practical classes. Of these 80 students, only five obtained good results. Most of the students understood that there is a relationship between the environment and diet. But even so, they had doubts about the evolution itself. Many students had difficulty understanding why the oldest human ancestors (Sahelanthropus, Orrorin tugenensis and Ardi) stayed for so long without modifying their anatomical structure what is called evolutionary statism[12] .

On the other hand, the students were able to relate the Paranthopus diet (with molars larger than ours) with the region in which they lived; arid and dry. This provided the development of fruits, roots and hard seeds. It was also understood the importance of cooking in human evolution. However, most believe that evolution follows an idea of progress and order.


We can conclude that few students have had an acceptable performance. The result of the questionnaire was disappointing. Few students had a broad understanding of the theme worked and studied. The cause of the failure was observed by Morales and Alves (2016) and Pobiner and Beardsley (2018), who listed: the lack of adequate school meals, the lack of life perspective, the difficulty in interpreting texts, the attachment to religiosity, the lack of an adequate library and the low socioeconomic index that prevents the development of critical thinking. Bergqvist and Prestes (2014) suggested as a solution the visit to Natural History Museums and use of images, in the room. What we will suggest are only three proposals: 1st) unify the subject evolution in the classes of History (1st year) and Biology (3rd year) of high school and integrate in the political-pedagogical project of the school (PPP) practical and theoretical classes elaborating a joint evaluation between these two disciplines; 2nd) create in the municipality a Free Course of Human Evolution seeking support from the City Of Nova Viçosa and the intellectual support of LEEH-USP (Laboratory of Human Evolutionary Studies of the University of São Paulo) to carry out the preparation of the handout of this course. The 3rd) creation of a Youtube channel for scientific dissemination in human evolution, highlighting the agendas of CARTA (Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny), the explanation of the history of paleoanthropology, the recommendation of books and documentaries and announcements of recent discoveries. We can say that the above proposals are not utopian, but they are also not easy to implement. At the moment, some of these suggestions are already in progress before the publication of this article and possibly in the near future may come true.


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2. Fossils: “All records of organisms or their activity that were preserved in rocks” (KELLNER, 1999, p 03).

3. They are fossils of our ancestors, which fall within the human lineage (NEVES et al, 2015, p 97).

4. It is known that the BR-101 was created in the 1950s and 1960s to connect the northeast to the south-southeast, and this stimulated economic development in the extreme south of Bahia (ALBUQUERQUE, 2006, p 44).

5. Using Oral Fountain, the former residents of the city are unaware of the government policies carried out by the presidents during the Military Government (1964-1985).

6. The IDEB is the Brazilian Education Development Index, created in 2007, which consists of an evaluation of Portuguese language and mathematics that takes place every two years. Students of the final grades of Basic Education perform this test with the objective of measuring intellectual development.


8. According to the ECA, minors under the age of 18 who attend school cannot have names and photos publicly displayed. For this reason, the attitude of not disclosing the name or the place where minors study was adopted.

9. Translation: Deeply sustained religious views in the country, especially Christianity, remain a stone in the shoe to understand and accept evolution. The lack of scientific literacy allows the continuation of social Darwinism and racial stereotypes and deprives victims of these evils of knowledge and thought mechanisms to owe these ideas. This review explores relatively sparse but well-conducted research on evolutionary education in South Africa.

10. Sterkfontein, Krondraai, Swartkrans, Taung, Makapangast, Malapa (related to Australopithecus and Paranthropus). Klases, Bomblos, Dinaledi and Pinnacle Point (related to the genus Homo).

11. The 1st Stage would have occurred 7.0 million years ago with the appearance of the Sahelanthropus until the extinction of The Au. Africanus and Au afarensis,by a margin of about 2.5 million years. So the duration of this stage is 4.5 million years.

12. Term created by Stephen J. Gould explains that the living being can stay for thousands of years without modifying its anatomy, being a morphologicalstability (sepsis) (CARVALHO, 2000, p 73-74).

[1] Graduated in History. Specialist in Sociology Education. History Specialist. Specialist in History and Geography.

Submitted: October, 2020.

Approved: April, 2021.

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