BBC video on the journey of man from Africa
200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens appear in the fossil records and it is now clear that he first evolved in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although there are slightly different looking versions of sapiens (such as Cro-Magnon man,) these are all Homo sapiens and these minor differences are not important enough to classify them as separate species.
An important fact that we must understand about the origins and evolution of mankind is our ‘Out of Africa’ origins. This theory, now widely accepted due to genetic evidence (and the examination of 6000 hominoid skulks from museums around the world) tells us that although 200,000 years ago much of the world had been colonised by Homo erectus, Neanderthals and other hominids, all of these species would become extinct and replaced by the new Homo sapiens. All of these Homo sapiens came from Africa and migrated to all corners of the globe.
The important thing students must understand is that there is no, unbroken link between all the different hominids we have seen thus far. For example, the Homo sapiens in southern Italy in the upper Palaeolithic are not the descendants of Neanderthals who in turn were the descendants of erectus; totally the opposite. All of those original settlers died out and were replaced by a relatively small group of Homo sapiens who began to migrate out of Africa approximately 60,000 years ago.
It is interesting to speculate on their motive… was it simply the search for new resources and food?
I don’t think so.
At this point in evolution these people were exactly like us, and I would bet that amongst those early travelers there were men and women with the pioneer spirit, with an innate sense of the size and variety of the planet, and a burning desire to see what lay beyond the mountain on the horizon. How far did they travel in a lifetime? What happened when a baby was born? Did they stop and settle when they found a beautiful place? Or, were they constantly plagued by the idea that, somewhere out there, was an even more beautiful place – and keep on moving.
Whatever their mentality, the important thing to note is that from East Africa, Homo-sapiens spread out over all the world, slowly replaced the archaic Homo sapiens, and reached ‘behavioural modernity’ at about 40,000 years ago. The upper Palaeolithic begins, and will continue until 10000.
Video on Chinese challenge to Out of Africa theory