Homo erectus (from the Latin ērı̆gĕre, "to put up, set upright") is an extinct species of hominid that originated in Africa—and spread as far as China and Java (part of Indonesia)—from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene: about 1.8-.3 million years ago. There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H. erectus, with two major alternative hypotheses: erectus may be another name for Homo ergaster, and therefore the direct ancestor of later hominids such as Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis, and Homo sapiens; or it may be an Asian species distinct from African ergaster.
H. erectus originally migrated from Africa during the Early Pleistocene around 2.0 million years ago, and dispersed throughout much of the Old World. Fossilized remains 1.8 and 1.0 million years old have been found in Africa (e.g., Lake Turkana and Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania), Europe (Georgia, Spain), Indonesia (e.g., Sangiran and Trinil), Vietnam, and China (e.g., Shaanxi).
Homo erectus in A Different Flesh
The Spanish were the first to arrive in the New World. Their early encounters with the sims were violent, as the sims believed the Spanish were possible prey, and the Spanish realized that the sims were not quite like themselves. The sims quickly realized the threat posed by Spanish firearms, and began doing their best to steer clear of them. This was a pattern that would play itself throughout the colonization of the New World as Europeans and sims would meet, violence would follow, and the sims would be forced to migrate away from colonies.
The Spanish brought sims back to Europe for display. It soon became obvious the sims were quite useful as domestic servants. Sims were bred in captivity. While sims could not speak themselves, they could comprehend human speech. Further, the sims could communicate through sign-language.
The sims were migratory in the wild. They had no agriculture. They were hunters and gatherers, primarily throwing sharpened stones to stun or kill their prey. They understood the value of fire, and how to keep a fire alive, but they could not build fire on their own. However, as sims and humans encountered each other, sims were able to learn various skills. Those that were "civilized" often appreciated the creature comforts their existence afforded them.
As more Europeans came, the sims were quickly overwhelmed. This was particularly true in North America, which came under the rule of England in the early 1600s. When England adopted the "divine-right of kings" model, their dissatisfied American colonies successfully rebelled, becoming the Federated Commonwealths of America in 1738. With the new country expanding, sims became quite useful. Gradually, they were phased out as domestic servants, and assigned to agricultural work. Their former domestic duties were given to dark-skinned humans brought from Africa as slaves. However, slavery in the Federated Commonwealths proved short-lived, as the existence of the sims undercut the central defense of slavery: that blacks were inferior or subhuman. By comparing and contrasting, it soon became clear that blacks were human. Slavery came to be seen as immoral, and in the wake of a famous 1805 legal case, faded from North America.
At the same time, the sims justice movement began. This movement (begun by trapper Henry Quick in the late 1810s) argued that while sims were not human, they were still far more than mere beasts of burden. The fight over the nature of sims and their place in society continued throughout the 19th century. As industrialization gradually replaced sim-labor, society found a new use for sims in scientific research. Sims were used in everything from testing new technology (a sim named Abel was the first creature to orbit the Earth) to disease research. By the end of the 20th century, sims were being used successfully in the hunt for the cure for AIDS.
While the name Homo erectus is never used in-universe, Harry Turtledove has issued several statements identifying H. e. with sims.
Homo erectus in State of Jefferson