The evolution of man would have undoubtedly begun during the late Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, the time the first Mammals appeared on Earth. The early mammals of the late cretaceous were small burrowing creatures, not unlike today’s mice, others growing to a size comparable to modern domestic cats, that were nocturnal in behaviour, to avoid the much larger Dinosaurs that were beginning to become extinct by the end of the Cretaceous period.
The mass extinction marking the end of the Dinosaur era was the beginning of the advance of mammals to the great apes, then ultimately, humans.
The earliest primate fossils appear in the Paleocene period, 55 million years ago. The Hominidae, or Great Apes, diverged from the Hylobatidae or ape family 15-20 million years ago. 14 million years ago, Orangutans were evolving from the hominidae family. Early hominid species, the Ardipithecus coming around about 4-5 million years ago. The chimpanzee and gorilla diverged at the same time. Early hominids continued to diversify into Ardipithecus then Australopithecus then later the Homo genus.
During Charles Darwin’s time, scientists believed early humans and apes evolved from an early common ancestor. Independent analysis during the twentieth century has confirmed this with anatomical comparisons between humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos. The findings confirming, that humans and apes did indeed evolve from the same early common ancestors as apes and today, share much of their DNA.
Today, humans are still 98 percent chimpanzee. This does tend to lead to some confusion however. Although humans and chimpanzees do share certain DNA, humans are not descendent from chimpanzees. But, they do share an earlier common ancestor.
Less than 8 million years ago, a common ancestor split into different lineages. Early hominids and apes began their own independent diversification or changes, then throughout the next 6 million years, continuing their own evolutionary process eventually becoming human and ape.