Human Prehistory 101: Prologue
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Human Prehistory 101: Prologue: Award winning video introduces human prehistory starting over 200,000 years ago. Who were our first human ancestors? Where did they live?
- Your personal ancestry story begins
- with the shared story of our human ancestry.
- You and your distant cousin, the chimpanzee,
- have a common ancestor.
- which lived about 6.5 million years ago.
- We can learn about this common ancestor by
- noting what makes us similar to chimps.
- But many things also distinguish us from chimpanzees,
- like our big brains, which enable abstract reasoning
- and the development of complex languages.
- And our anatomy, adapted to up-right walking,
- these human traits developed gradually over millions of years.
- The fossil record reveals a long and eventful
- parade of human ancestors.
- During some periods, several of our ancestors co-existed.
- Gradually, they became more efficient up-right walkers.
- And later, developed skulls with larger brain cases
- devoted more to thinking and less to chewing.
- Our knowledge of the exact relationships between
- these ancestors is incomplete.
- And often, is revised, because of new fossil finds.
- Some of them were our direct ancestors,
- some of them were distant cousins,
- who became evolutionary dead ends.
- But by 200,000 years ago,
- we're on firmer ground.
- We find the bones of people in Africa,
- who looked something like us,
- not exactly like us, but close.
- They built fires and flaked stone into spear heads, knifes, and scrapers.
- They were physically strong,
- and still depended on their muscles, not their technology
- for much of their survival.
- Here, in addition to fossils,
- we have genetics to help us find our prehistoric kin.
- All of this, living today, inherited our DNA
- from this small group of ancient people in Africa.
- Over time, they began to look more and more like us.
- And by 100,000 years ago, their skeletons weren't so different
- from ours, but these early Homo sapiens shared the planet
- with two of their distant cousins.
- By this time, as a result of previous migrations,
- Homo erectus was living across Asia, and had been for 2 million years.
- Homo erectus had a big brain, some made hand axes,
- some do fires, and some may even have worn clothing.
- At the same time, Neanderthals lived across Europe, and western and
- central Asia. They had even bigger brains.
- They made spears and stone tools, similar to those
- found in Africa, and we suspect they had strong social relationships.
- They cared for their sick, and infermed, and buried their dead.
- Not so very different, culturally, from early Homo sapiens, it seems
- that our human anatomy developed before our complex human culture.
- But things were about to change.
- Today, we live in all climates, all over the world;
- and are unique, in our dependence on our cultures for survival.
- How we got from there, to here,
- forms the next chapters in our human story.