A glance at the evolutionary family tree of humans reveals that the three earliest-known branches ae full of species that appear far more ape-like than the "caveman" stereotype associated with the Homo branch. Some of these strange-looking guys and gals are evolutionary ancestors of humans, but others might be hominids that just co-existed with the ancestors of modern humans, meaning we're related, but we didn't necessarily evolve from them.
Thanks to the efforts of talented sculptors and scientists, we can look at models of these early hominids in museums and online, but the truth is that most of what we know about these species is from a few scattered bone fragments. The fossil record has been filled in tremendously since the first findings in the 1920s, so we're learning an extraordinary amount about the history of human evolution each year. Read on for a brief tour of the major hominids that predated the branch that eventually lead to Homo sapiens (that's you!).
Sahelanthropus Tchadensis: Now We're Walking!
Orrorin Tugenensis: It's All About the Teeth
Ardipithecus kKadabba: An Accidental Discovery
Ardipithecus Ramidus: Meat-Eating Begins?
Australopithecus Anamensis: Largest Canine Yet Discovered
Australopithecus Afarensis: We Love Lucy