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The Origin of Humans

by Clare Louise

There’s been plenty of controversy over the years about where humans came from, both geographically and evolutionarily. Scientists and researches have been working for decades to pinpoint the origin of humans and develop a detailed understanding of how we got where we are today. There’s creationism, Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Out of Africa theory, and the Mesopotamian tale, to name a few theories. Most people prescribe to a basic understanding of evolution, which we’ll discuss below, but it’s always a good idea for people to explore multiple theories and make their own decisions about what they think could have happened.

Evolution

The general consensus is that humans evolved from ape-like primates millions of years ago in Africa. Scientists have even discovered the bones of what they think was the first homo sapien, affectionately named Lucy. As time wore on in ancient lands, key characteristics became more prominent in humans, such as walking upright, using tools, and thinking critically to solve problems. Some scientists believe there may have been 15 to 20 species of humans at one time, like you might see with other animal families. One theory is that all but one—current humans—died out, but not all scientists can agree on whether these species were related to each other or just had similar characteristics. It’s thought that humans left Africa for Asia roughly 2 million years ago, and made their way into Europe about half a million years later. Theories are they were pushed inland by the ice ages and forced to adapt to new environments, which further fueled their evolution.

People who study human evolution are called paleoanthropologists, and are skilled in both anthropology and paleontology. The work to piece together the complex history of humans to find out what really happened on the past millennia.