The First Journey

I have always been fascinated by pre-history.
How did we get here?
What would it be like to live 100,000 years ago?

And most important of all questions - If humans originated in Africa some 200,000 years ago, how did we migrate to all corners of the world without any modern means of transport? By modern I mean - ships, planes or other mechanical/automotive contraptions - as most of these have been discovered within the last 500 years. A minuscule timescale compared to thousands of years when a small group of people would've started this journey. They would be the first ones to leave their home in pursuit of the unknown for the first time in the history of man. The first explorers amongst the first people.

In my amateur search I came across several interesting articles esp. this one on early human migration on Wikipedia. The article has an interesting migration map that shows how we started from Africa and then spread across the continents.

Understandably there is no archaeological evidence that can answer the how in my question or even highlight the path with absolute certainty that those early humans could have followed to spread across the world.
But there is an answer, though not that apparent at first.

It's genetics. Well actually multi-disciplinary. A combination of archaeology, linguistics and genetics.

By combining what we know from archaeological evidence and using that data to test the transfer of genetic markers esp. the Y chromosome generation to generation we can find out who our distant cousins are.
Genetics dictates that there are certain unique markers that still exist in ancient civilizations such as the Kalahari Bushmen. We are now almost certain that this is where we would have started and the Bushmen, now made famous by movies like "Gods Must Be Crazy" - represent our lifestyle almost 200,000 years back.
The unique genetic markers in the Bushmen have passed down to all humans. This is also proven. Most of the times the Y marker is transmitted unchanged to the next generation but sometimes there is a split. This split might be due to evolution/natural selection and then this becomes the new marker that is transmitted. A split can be thought of as a slight modification to the original marker. By tracing these splits across the globe as per the archaeological and/or linguistic evidence we can create a pretty accurate map of the first journey. We also meet a lot of different looking cousins along the way. These minor splits also lead to ethnic diversity of particular regions. Once a group settles in a particular location and starts breeding their ethnicity adapts to that region. They also start developing various attributes such as resistance to extreme cold or skin color as per the availability of sun light or facial features that give them their unique characteristics.

Pretty interesting isn't it?

You must be wondering did I actually find the answer to my question.
I did.
They did it on foot. Generation to generation. The group split in several locations and followed the route from Africa to India to Asia and so on. Though it sounds unbelievable what these people would've endured along the journey as this was also the time of the ice age, all genetic evidence proves that this was their route. The ice age actually helped as this is how they touched Americas through an ice strait!

Here's an interesting documentary on this migration. A must watch in my opinion if you are interested in our origins.

It describes what I mentioned above:

This will definitely change your view of the world and without sounding too hippy we all can say we might look different but we are all essentially the same!

As you will see there are still gaps in our understanding of the journey of man, but we are way closer to the answer now than a decade back.
Who knows what more we will find in the next 10 years!

Though I am sure its not going to be Aliens or Gods as the history channel would have you believe :-)


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