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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Peopling of the Earth

Homo sapiens, the first modern humans, evolved from their early hominid predecessors between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago and developed a capacity for language about 50,000 years ago. The first modern humans began moving outside of the African continent starting about 70,000-100,000 years ago and populating parts of Europe and Asia. They reached the Australian continent in canoes sometime between 35,000 and 65,000 years ago. Humans are the only known species to have successfully populated, adapted to, and significantly altered a wide varieties of land regions across the world, resulting in profound historical and environmental impacts.

History, Evolution, Migration and Peopling of the Earth

Homo sapiens is part of a group called hominids, which were the earliest humanlike creatures that hominids diverged from other primates somewhere between 2.5 and 4 million years ago in Eastern and Southern Africa. They have the ability to walk upright on two legs. Early hominids were more suited to dry climates of Africa. According to the savannah hypothesis, early tree-dwelling hominids may have been pushed out of their homes as environmental changes caused the forest regions to shrink and the size of the savannah expand. These changes, according to savannah hypothesis, may have caused them to adapt to living on the ground and walking upright instead of climbing.

Hominids continued to evolve and develop unique characteristics. Their brain capacities increased, and approximately 2.3 million years ago a hominid known as Homo habilis began to make and use simple tools. By a million years ago, some hominids species, particularly Homo erectus, began to migrate out of Africa and Eurasia, where they began to make other advances like controlling fire.

Though there were once many kinds of hominids, only one remains: Homo sapiens.

We do have some clues as to why some species were less successful at surviving them others, such as an inability to cope with competition for food, changes in climate, and volcanic eruptions. Between 70,000 and 100,000 years ago, Homo sapiens began migrating from the African continent and populating parts of Europe and Asia. They reached the Australian continent in canoes sometime between 35,000 and 65,000 years ago. Scientists studying land masses and climate know that the Pleistocene Ice Age created a land bridge that connected Asia and North America ( Alaska ) over 13,000 years ago. A widely accepted migration theory is that people crossed this land bridge and eventually migrated into North and South America.

The development of language 50,000 years ago allowed people to make plans, solve problems, and organize effectively. Migration likely correlated with the depletion of resources ( like food ) in their regions and competition for these resources. When humans migrated from Africa to colder climates, they made clothing out of animals skins and constructed fires to keep themselves warm; they burned fire continuously through the winter. Sophisticated weapons, such as spears and bows and arrows, allowed them to kill large mammals efficiently. Human started shifting from nomadic lifestyles to fixed homes, using the natural resources there. Semi-permanent settlements would be the building-blocks of established communities and the development of agricultural practices.

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