Homo erectus is believed to have developed from the species Homo ergaster approximately 1,8 million years ago. H. erectus has been pointed out as the first hominid to leave the African continent and start the spread around the world. In many ways the Homo erectus was more advanced than its predecessors, not only did they use more advanced tools but it is also believed that they were, in a social perspective more like the modern man than like there earlier relatives.
The first known types of man made tools are called Oldowan style tools. This kind of simple stone tools were made as early as 2.6 million years ago. Homo erectus was the species to develop these skills and move on to the more advanced Acheulean type of tools. Primarily the Acheulean tools differ from the earlier type with their edges chipped from both sides.
Some scientists believe that the Homo erectus also were the first to develop the skills needed to build rafts for traveling on the oceans. This is, however a highly debated suggestion.
These early men were among the first to live strictly as hunter-gatherers, meaning that they had the skills and knowledge to needed for mass hunting as a primary method of feeding. They developed more complicated ways of manipulating the world around them for their own survival. Not only this, they were probably the first species to live in the kind of band societies we see in todays hunter-gatherer cultures. However, skeletal findings suggest that Homo erectus did not have the physical ability to produce sounds at the level of modern speech-complexity. It has been suggested that they used a kind of simple, pre-speech, sounding system for basic communication.
To what level and how early Homo erectus could start and control fire is still a debated matter. There have been findings in France, China, Vietnam and Israel that suggest that they had the ability to at least control fire from as early as 790.000 to 1,5 million years ago. The earliest undisputed evidence of controlled fire is from a find in France, around 300.000 years old. These findings apart it is believed that the Homo erectus did not use fire in the same degree and with the same refinement as later Homo species such as Homo neanderthalensis.
There are still a lot of question and debate surrounding the skills and abilities of Homo erectus but the scientists agree that great changes took place during the time of this hominid and that they brought the Homo genus closer to what we call modern man.