By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood

Where on Earth did humans emerge?

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The First 1,000 Years.

Where did we come from?

Africa. That’s the only continent with fossil evidence of our early ancestors dating back millions of years. Our African origin is supported by genetic data that points to a high level of genetic diversity among current African populations, a diversity that decreases with geographic distance from Africa, consistent with the patterns of human migration out of the continent. 

Humans emerged in the regions that are now Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. These fossils have been found primarily at sites in East Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, which hosts the famous Omo Kibish and Herto fossils. This area is often referred to as the “Cradle of Humankind” due its rich fossil evidence supporting early human evolution.

The earliest known Homo sapiens fossils, date back to around 315,000 years in North Africa, in Morocco. From this African origin, humans gradually migrated to other parts of the world, adapting to diverse environments and forming various cultures.

The earliest human traits appeared in Africa around six million years ago, with evidence of bipedalism appearing over four million years ago. Early humans first migrated out of Africa into Asia around 2 million years ago, entering Europe around 1.5 million years ago.

However, the story of human origins is not without debate. Some researchers propose that Homo sapiens might have developed in multiple regions within Africa, rather than a single location. Additionally, DNA evidence confirms that interbreeding with archaic human species, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, contributed to the genetic diversity of modern humans. This interbreeding highlights the complex and fluid nature of human evolution.

To explore the first millennia of humanity, take the 7-minute deep dive: Dawn of Humanity: Homo Sapiens in Their First Millennia.

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June 16, 2024 Edition
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