Our ancient ancestors lived in small groups on the African savanna about 200,000 years ago during the ice age. From there, these first peoples moved across the earth and mingled with other types of humans. Thus human genes evolved and Homo sapiens grew in numbers.
The PBS series, First Peoples, is a collaboration between historians and scientists who have uncovered a mystery as compelling as any detective story. It is the story of how early Man survived through the mixing of genes. This story of the first peoples would make a fascinating history research paper.
The five-part series, First Peoples, premiered on PBS June 24, 2015. Each episode focuses on a different geographic area:
The story begins in Africa where scientists have discovered that a new species of Homo sapiens appeared about 200,000 years ago. DNA evidence suggests that humans evolved in many different locations across the continent of Africa. As these groups met and interacted with each other, the species increased its diversity.
The African adventure focused on Omo-1, a hunter who roamed the savanna and died in his early twenties. Omo’s bones were discovered in 1967. When properly dated, his remains were found to be older than any other remains of Homo sapiens discovered so far.
From Africa, scientists have found evidence that humans ventured into Asia where they interbred with other types of humans: Homo erectus, Neanderthals and Denisovans. At every juncture, survival of humankind depended on the ability to meet, cooperate and mate. According to the series, the mixture of the species has helped us to survive and thrive as a species.
Episodes focused on Australia, Europe and the Americas take the story further and illustrate how humans dealt with the challenges of survival. You can watch previews and full episodes of First Peoples at PBS.org.
Research paper tools
When writing your research paper, be sure to check out Questia where you’ll have access to millions of full-text books, articles, journals, newspapers and encyclopedias. Along with these resources, you’ll find all the tools you need to take notes, keep bookmarks and cite your sources. Create a folder to store your research so that you can return again and again to build your research paper. The Research Tool Extension allows users to keep their project folders on digital sources outside of Questia making it even easier for you to work on your papers.
When researching the history of ancient Man, use the browse feature to explore the topic of history. You’ll find credible resources such as the book, A Prehistory of the North: Human Settlement of the Higher Latitudes by John F. Hoffecker.
Hoffecker focused on an earlier epoch in the development of Man than the era of the PBS series First Peoples. His examination of Man’s African roots included australopithecine sites in East and southern Africa where Man began his separation from the other primates.
“However, the australopithecines had evolved a mode of locomotion—walking upright on their hind limbs—that set them apart from not only the African apes but all other living primates and most mammals. It was the development of bipedalism that moved humans onto their fateful evolutionary track. Together with the later appearance of language, it remains the most important event in human evolution,” Hoffecker stated.
Modern Homo Sapiens
In November 2013, Dr. Dennis O’Neil of the Behavioral Sciences Department at Palomar College in San Marcos, California explained theories of evolution of “Early Modern Homo Sapiens,” for his site at Anthro.Palomar.edu.
According to O’Neil, there are two major but contradictory models that attempt to explain modern human evolution.
Replacement model: modern humans evolved from humans located only in Africa beginning about 200,000 years ago. From there they migrated into other geographic areas where they replaced the humans there such as the Neanderthals and Homo erectus thus rendering them extinct.
Regional continuity model: humans evolved simultaneously in all areas of the world at the same time. Proponents believe that there is an ultimate human ancestor of all modern people, an early Homo erectus who lived in Africa about 1.8 million years ago.
Regarding the later theory O’Neil observed, “It is argued that intermittent contact between people of these distant areas would have kept the human line a single species at any one time. However, regional varieties, or subspecies, of humans are expected to have existed.”
Are you familiar with the history of homo sapiens where you now live? Tell us in the comments.