Sep 24, 2009 - genetics 101

Human Prehistory 101: Out of (Eastern) Africa

Take a look at the second installment of 23andMe’s Human Prehistory 101 series.   23andMe’s creative team (led by chief illustrator Ariana Killoran) recently released “Out of (Eastern) Africa.”   With this new installment, we pick up where the previous video left off, when humans were starting to take their first tentative steps beyond the shores of Africa and into the unknown.

We begin this second episode around 60,000 years ago, when early human groups were exploring Africa for food and other resources. Just a few thousand years later, a few people journeyed even farther, heading east into the Arabian Peninsula, Asia, Europe and beyond. The common theme here? Things were changing for our human ancestors, who had previously stayed relatively confined to their homeland but now they were on the move. Around the time they first set foot in Asia, humans in Africa began creating sophisticated stone tools and art the likes of which had never been seen before.

As humans ventured into uncharted territory, they may have encountered other species who bore some resemblance to themselves.   In Asia, they may have run into Homo erectus, a distant relative that had journeyed into Asia from Africa almost 2 million years earlier.   In Europe humans likely came across the Neanderthals, another related species that had been braving the cold northern latitudes of Europe and western Asia for hundreds of thousands of years.

Our story continues as we see where various human populations settled over the next several thousand years, and gives us a peek at the difficulties that awaited them as the harsh Ice Age approached. Subsequent episodes will document how our human ancestors survived the harsh Ice Age conditions and how the innovation of agriculture and development of language laid the groundwork for the genetic diversity we see today.   Enjoy this latest installment and stay tuned for future episodes of Human Prehistory 101!

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