A Brief History of Human Evolution and Migration

paleo diet, Paleolithic diet, hunter-gatherer diet

Huaorani hunter in Ecuador

Evolutionary theory holds that we humans—Homo sapiens—evolved from non-human primates (hominins) in a process that started 2.5 million years ago in Africa. Prominent ancestors include Homo habilis (2.3 million years ago) and Homo erectus (1.8 million years ago).

Homo sapiens eventually hit the scene 200,000 years ago, probably in east Africa, which is considered the cradle of humanity. (All Americans can honestly fill out forms that ask for our race as “African-American.”) The paleoanthropologists tell us we share many genetic traits with long-extinct hominins from two million years ago.

African Diaspora


The “Out of Africa” hypothesis to explain the worldwide spread of humans says that Homo sapiens arose in Africa, then began migrating out 50 or 100,000 years ago. A competing “multiregional” hypothesis involves Homo erectus dispersing to many regions throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia, then somehow interbreeding and culminating in Homo sapiens in several regions. Homo erectus may have begun to spread out of Africa as long as 1.4 million years ago. Among the experts, the Out of Africa theory is currently favored over the multiregional hypothesis.

Anyway, starting roughly 100,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans began migrating out of Africa, into the Near East. By 50,000 years ago we were into South Asia, then Australia 40 or 50,000 years ago. We spread to Europe 40,000 years ago. Northeast Asians moved into North America (Alaska) 12 to 30,000 years ago; South America followed. We have evidence of behaviorally modern humans from about 50,000 years ago, if not longer. In other words, in addition to looking like us, they acted like us. At this point, we’ve made it to every spot on Earth that can support life. Not to mention the moon.

As points of reference, the Bronze Age started 5,500 years ago in the Near East and the earliest known writing was 5,000 years ago.

I wonder if God made Adam and Eve 200,000 years ago, and Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and our other hominin “ancestors” are just extinct animals like the dodo bird and dinosaurs. Probably not.

Steve Parker, M.D.

2 responses to “A Brief History of Human Evolution and Migration

  1. As has been noticed by many before me, if you look at Genesis there are two creation stories. First, God says “let there be this and that” six days in a row, declares it good, and rests on the seventh day. Then there is a splice. Then Yahweh is playing in the dirt making Adam and then makes everything else to provide an environment for Adam, the Garden of Eden.

    So, evidently these stories by their own proper presentation are not meant to be any sort of linear description of history to the pious and conservative believer, and these stories don’t seem to have any bearing whatsoever on how hominids left or didn’t leave Africa.