160,000 Years of Walking

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On another site I frequent, a poster provided a link to a site that provides an interactive map of the migration of...us (homo sapiens)!

From the Bradshaw Foundation, compliments of Stephen Oppenheimer (author of Out of Eden and The Real Eve), here's the interactive Journey of Mankind.

To just hit the play button at each step will take you about 3 minutes to spin through the map. To click each "stop" on the map and play some of the extras will take more time but is totally worth it.

I found it enlightening to see the effect climate had on the early human population and how close to extinction we came on at least three different occasions. But we're crafty little bastards, and here we are today; out of savannas and steppes and into climate-controlled offices!

8 comments:

Jay 11:37 AM  

That is pretty cool. I like that they apparently spent about 10,000 years walking (and, I presume, sitting when they got tired) on the beach.

A couple of sciency quibbles (if you really want to waste some time discussing this):

1) "This map will show for the first time the interaction of migration and climate over this period."

I doubt this is the "first time". This sounds more like sales-speak than science. But selling your science is part of the game, so I will not complain too much (I find myself doing it too, sometimes, but I try very hard not to do it when writing).

2) "We are the descendants of a few small groups who united in the face of adversity, not only to the point of survival but to the development of a sophisticated social culture expressed through many forms."

Similar to some of the stuff Noah and I have discussed off-blog about the Steven Hawking Discovery Channel programs, this statement strikes me as being a bit backwards and unsupported by the data. It seems more plausible to me that survival came first (otherwise we would not be talking about them at all) and "sophisticated social interaction and culture" evolved among the isolated survivors. But the suggestion in this statement seems (to me) to be that we should be amazed by the ability of these small groups to develop culture, etc, so that they could survive, which just sounds a little much like touchy-feely "wow, they were so cool" sort of thinking to me. Brains and isolated groups lead to culture. Do we need to say "look how cool they were to develop it so they could survive" in order to make the point?

Like I said, quibbles.

Monk-in-Training 12:40 PM  

Wow, thanks a lot Smitty, this is a really cool map. I am going to send it to my daughter-in-law to use in her school (she is a teacher).

I will have to check it out in more detail later.

Br. James Patrick


(Monks can have kids, I am a widower)

Bob 12:54 PM  

That was real intriguing. I would like to see more information about Neanderthal man and how that separation occurred and where those migrations happened.

Last week on NPR, I heard about a study of DNA that showed Neanderthal DNA within Europeans. Interbreeding with early modern humans might have been Neanderthal’s downfall.

It also shows that non-Europeans are “more human.” “Master-race” Nazi a holes!

Smitty 2:28 PM  

This sounds more like sales-speak than science. But selling your science is part of the game

It's a bummer that scientists have to resort to petty PR to "sell" their craft. When they do is when they say something out of hand.

“Master-race” Nazi a holes!

I personally don't see what a narrow-skulled, large-brained homo sapien would see in a sloped-foreheaded, small-brained homo neandertal...but who am I to stand in the way of love?

Smitty 2:29 PM  

I am going to send it to my daughter-in-law to use in her school

Tell her to send it to every school teacher imaginable. Especially in Texas.

steves 6:44 PM  

It seems more plausible to me that survival came first (otherwise we would not be talking about them at all) and "sophisticated social interaction and culture" evolved among the isolated survivors

This seems more plausible to me, too, but a lack of any kind of record makes it hard to really know. I find this kind of stuff really interesting. I may have to dig out some of my college anthropology books.

B Mac 7:26 PM  

Take that, Earth!!!

On a related topic, Sports Illustrated ran a fascinating article a couple of weeks ago about 'man as the ultimate runner.'

I suggest you check it out; it makes a compelling argument for much of physical human development, such as numerous sweat glands, lack of fur, etc.

Jay 9:12 PM  

This seems more plausible to me, too, but a lack of any kind of record makes it hard to really know.

Yeah, that's why I have a problem with the way they stated it. Since we have no data that would indicate which came first, I would prefer that they not try to wow us with the concept that this cultural development was "achieved" at the same time as they were struggling for survival. It just strikes me as a scientifically silly/indefensible thing to suggest.

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