Around 200,000 years ago, a new species, Homo sapiens, appeared on the African landscape. While scientists have imagined eastern Africa as a real-life Garden of Eden, the latest research suggests humans evolved in many places across the continent at the same time. DNA from a 19th-century African-American slave is forcing geneticists to re-think the origins of our species. The theory is that our ancestors met, mated and hybridized with other human types in Africa — creating ever greater diversity within our species.
Part 2 • 2015 • History
When Homo sapiens arrived in Australia, they were, for the first time, truly alone, surrounded by wildly different flora and fauna. How did they survive and populate a continent? There is a close cultural and genetic link between the First Australians and modern-day Aborigines. The ancient and modern story intersect here as nowhere else in the world. The secret to this continuity is diversity. Intuitively, they found the right balance between being separate and connected.
Part 4 • 2015 • History
When Homo sapiens turned up in prehistoric Europe, they ran into the Neanderthals. The two types of human were similar enough to interbreed — and both created artifacts of similar complexity. But as more and more Homo sapiens moved into Europe, the balance of power shifted. Neanderthals were overwhelmed. Ever since, we’ve had Europe and the rest of the world to ourselves.
Part 5 • 2015 • History