Review and Photographs by Quentin Brendel (aka Pachyrhinosaurus), edited by Suspsy
The main theme of Safari Ltd’s Safariology line is education. The line includes life cycle sets, fossil replicas, a solar system model, and other items to encourage children to learn more about nature. Perhaps the most important teaching tool in the Safariology line is the “Evolution of Man” set, especially since, depending on the region, this important lesson might unfortunately be omitted from school curriculums. Not surprisingly, the set may evoke the image of Rudolph Zallinger’s famous “March of Progress” painting. Of course, numbering only five, it doesn’t include as many species, but it still does its job of providing a visual aid of human evolution (and lets us have some human victims for our prehistoric mammals).
Australopithecus is the earliest of the hominins in the lot. For such a small figure, it has lots of detail. It’s standing upright with a slightly forward lean, a curious expression on its face, and a bone held in its right hand. The Australopithecus is the only one that is not holding a stick. There’s lots of muscle definition all over the hairy body. Most of the figure is solid brown except for the bone, which is painted white, and the face, which is light brown with darker highlights. The eyes aren’t quite straight, but this is minor compared to some of the others in the set.
Coming next is Homo habilis. This one has slightly more definition than the Australopithecus, possibly to imply a thinner coat of hair. It’s also more diverse in colour. The body is lighter coloured and there is a darker patch of hair on the head. The face and ears are similar to those of the Australopithecus except that the highlights match the color of the body. H. habilis comes with two tools: a stone and a long stick. The stick is a support for the figure, allowing for a tripod stance.
Third one up is the Homo erectus. This one lacks body hair altogether. I’m sure H. erectus would have been hairy in life much like many modern humans, but a model at this size would probably have trouble depicting sparse hair like that. He also has backwards-running hair like that of the H. habilis in the set, as well as a beard. This figure has the most well-defined muscles, as the body is not obscured by hair or clothing though he is wearing a loincloth. There’s a stick included with H. erectus as well, this time topped with flames, reminiscent of the Bullyland figure, however the fire is not as convincing as that one’s. It’s very red and yellow, and would be more realistic if painted in various shades of orange. The stick doesn’t look very charred either, being a bright beige.
The Neanderthal also sports a hairless body, save for the hair on the head and the beard, and appears to be making a hand gesture. He dons an animal skin which is worn over one shoulder and of course, covers his pelvic area. There’s a stick in the right hand as well. The skin tone is quite varied in my figure, being lighter in some areas and darker in others, keeping a natural feel. The hair is painted black and it’s tied up in a ponytail in the back. Eyebrows are painted on. Some of the paint is off-target on my figure, but it’s at a small scale and the errors aren’t as easy to notice, although the two eyes looking in different directions can be quite distracting. The lips are also painted a different colour from the face.
Lastly, the Cro-Magnon is the most recent of the bunch. Unlike the rest, he holds a spear and a bone with both hands. I’m not too familiar with Cro-Magnon weaponry, so I can’t tell for sure whether the bone is supposed to be affixed to the spear or not. As always, there’s lots of paint detail, with even the fibers binding the stone to the stick painted separately. Also unlike the rest, the Cro-Magnon is wearing fuzzy boots. I’m sure I saw some similar ones last time I was at the mall. It must be an old trend. He’s also wearing something that reminds me of a kilt as well as a necklace with teeth or claws. The Cro-Magnon’s hair is higher than that of the Neanderthal and is a medium brown. The face sports a moustache and beard of the same colour.
Overall, this is a nice set. The scale and complexity makes it vulnerable to paint mistakes, however, that is only a minor problem and if need be, they are easily repaintable. I think they make good companion pieces to the other prehistoric mammals due to their smaller size. A possible downside is that they aren’t very compatible with one another in a diorama setting since most of them are from different times and places, and even if one were to get hold of multiples of one of them, it would look rather unnatural with them all being in the same position. For its purpose–to illustrate human evolution from other apes–it does its job well. The Cro-Magnon stands three inches tall, putting these figures at around 1/24 scale. They aren’t exactly to scale with the Safari woolly mammoth, but there’s enough size difference between them that it doesn’t look unnatural.
Interestingly, newer versions of the set are not as detailed with the paint, sporting more solid and less intricate paint jobs. It doesn’t detract too much from the figure, but there’s still a noticeable difference. With their detail, playability, and educational value, the Safari Ltd Evolution of Man set should be a welcome addition to any shelf, toybox, or classroom. They are still in production and can easily be found online on Amazon or eBay.