While most of us history aficionados relegate prehistory to dates that hark back to 200,000 years, the story of humanity actually goes back to around 6-7 millions years ago, when one of our ‘ape’ cousins possibly decided to go for a walk instead of swinging from the trees. Now of course, this scope of millions of years is truly mind-boggling if viewed from the perspective of human history as we know it, given the sheer expanse of the time period. But interestingly enough, the ambit of progression of humans has never stopped during all this ‘time’, with our forefathers making impressive strides from survivability to adaptability to finally comfort. These varied natural factors and emerging societal patterns are aptly depicted in a pretty effortless manner via a superbly crafted short animated video by Youtube channel Kurzgesagt.
The Hominin Lineage –
According to the simplified version of an anthropological definition, the hominin basically pertains to the members of the common ancestors of humans. And study of fossils have revealed that the earliest members of the hominin lineage might have pointed to the Sahelanthropus tchadensis from around 7 million years ago. Other ‘old’ hominin lineages include the Orrorin tugenensis – dating from 5.7 million years ago, and Ardipithecus kadabba – dating from 5.6 millions years ago. And the odd part is, any one of these three species could have been the bipedal ancestor to the humans, with points being argued both in favor and against each of the candidates in the anthropological realm.
The Emergence of Homo –
In any case, the earliest members of the genus Homo (which in its generic Latin form denotes a ‘human being’) possibly emerged at a date corresponding to 2.8 million years ago. In fact, the Homo habilis are known to be the first species to actually use stone tools, while the Homo erectus was the first species known to have moved out of Africa (complemented by what is thought to be the process of encephalization – which doubled their cranal capacity). Intriguingly enough, a certain group (or population) of the Homo erectus decided to stay in their ‘homeland’ of Africa, and they (known as Homo ergaster) are believed to have ultimately evolved into Homo sapiens – of which modern humans are a sub-species of.
The Modern Humans –
Analysis of fossil remains have established that the anatomically modern human emerged around 200,000 years ago, thus corresponding to the Middle Paleolithic period. And once again following the footsteps of their ‘ancestors’, a small percentage of the Homo sapiens populace migrated out of Africa – possibly around 100,000-70,000 years ago. However the most significant parcel of prehistory pertains to the Upper Paleolithic period around 50,000 years ago. This was the momentous time when modern humans were finally able to make their progression from survivability to adaptability with developed parameters like language, music and culture.
The Cross-Breeding –
In terms of well documented assessments, present-day non-Africans tend to have detectable traces of Neanderthal-derived ‘bits’ in their genome. On the other hand, contemporary native Africans do not have such traces of Neanderthal genome. This suggests that the human group that migrated during the ‘out of Africa’ event (70,000 years ago) bred with archaic (now-extinct) members of the human family, like the Neanderthals. The offspring produced from such unions were raised among the early modern humans, and they in turn bred with other humans, thus resulting in the transmission of the neanderthal genome traces. However given the geographical domains of contemporary neanderthals (who were based outside of Africa), the native African ancestors didn’t get the opportunity to breed with these archaic members. So simply put, modern humans who are non-African in origin, including Asians and Europeans, have neanderthal genome imprints (though negligible) as opposed to the people of pure African ancestry.