Many years have passed since the days when our ancestors were very different from how we look today. Now we have less body hair, a straight back, better-developed facial muscles and colorful eyes that make us look like advanced beings we are now. Though, we still have many things to learn.
Our lifestyles are now completely different from what our ancestors knew. Driving cars, watching films, listening to music and living in houses are things they would be astonished to see. They lived in small groups and had only the primitive tools they used to protect themselves from danger, build shelters, create clothing and acquire food. All of these activities combined made life difficult for even the strongest to survive.
To make sure they could survive, our ancestors were always working to stay alive. By living this way, they learned a lot that helped them grow into bigger communities. Small villages where everyone did the same activities transformed into big towns where humans specialized in specific crafts, creating advanced tools and great buildings, paving the way into science.
All their hard work paid off. Thanks to early humans our lives are now much easier, more fun and full of wise archaeologists and anthropologists who continue to discover amazing facts about our ancestors that you can read about below.
10. Our Ancestors Left Africa Over 1 Million Years Ago
You may have heard about how Homo sapiens (the scientific name for the kind of human we are now) left Africa and went to Europe, where they met with the Neanderthals. However, what you probably don’t know is that Homo erectus (one of the earliest human species) left Africa 1 million years ago.
After leaving Africa, Homo sapiens met many different, ancient human species different, but similar to themselves. These were different species of early humans that, due to changes in their living environment, evolved a little differently. It’s like having different but similar races like humans, dwarves and elves in certain films, except it happened in reality.
9. Early Humans Had Surprisingly Low Genetic Diversity
While archeologists find many different early human species, we had and still have surprisingly low genetic diversity. It’s mostly because we all came from the same group of human-ape ancestors who lived in East Africa.
To determine genetic diversity, scientists need to know the effective population size. This size helps to understand how many organisms you need to create the genetic diversity of the full population. For our species, this number is 15,000 individuals to recreate a society of over 7 billion people. For mice, the effective population size is 733,000 organisms.
8. You May Have Neanderthal Genes
Neanderthals are our genetic friends who resemble us, but were smaller, more muscular and had bigger eyes. These qualities were important to survive cold Europe’s climate by keeping warm, being strong enough to hunt big animals and being able to see better than we can now.
Neanderthals went to Europe sooner than Homo sapiens, so they evolved differently. Eventually we also colonized Europe and met each other as separate species. Still, the genetic changes weren’t big enough for the Homo sapiens and Neanderthals to create families and have kids, which is the reason why even after the Neanderthals died, we kept a few of their genes.
7. The Human Population Decreased 80,000 Years Ago
Archeologists aren’t sure what, but they know that 80,000 years ago something horrible happened. They say it could be due to the eruption of a massive Toba volcano that chilled the planet’s temperature by filling the sky with particles that blocked the sun’s heat for many years.
Of course, to see no sunlight and live in freezing temperatures would be a disaster for early humans and all other species alive at the time.
6. Homo Sapiens Always Evolve
Yep. Before, now, and perhaps into the future, we will continue to evolve. It’s because our living conditions always change. We start to eat different food, live in new areas, use modern technologies and mix our genes between different human races, which help to create further genetic evolution.
Will these changes be good? No one can really say. For example, we became accustomed to eating new types of food which allowed us to get more nutrients. On the other hand, our brains are shrinking. We’re still a long way from knowing which changes are good and which are not.
5. Humans Navigated The Indian Ocean In Boats 50,000 Years Ago
Homo sapiens went to Australia 50,000 years ago, which is an incredible achievement because they didn’t have maps or much traveling experience.
We don’t know how many times they tried to do so, but to establish big enough populations, they needed to go there in massive groups. After surviving long sea travels, they also needed to accustom themselves to unknown land areas that only made their situation even crazier.
4. Our Tooth Size Decreased While Brain Size Increased
One strange phenomenon scientists discovered is the increase of human brain size in tandem with a decrease in tooth size. This came as a surprise; when other animals’ brains grow, tooth size normally increases due to the need for more calories and nutrients to keep the brain growing.
This could be because humans started to cook food over a fire which made chewing and digestion easier, saving lots of time and energy our ancestors spent on digestion. In that case, large teeth wouldn’t be needed to maintain brain growth.
3. Human Longevity May Be Caused By A Slow Metabolism
Most people hate to hear that they have a slow metabolism, but it could help us live longer than most other animals. You see, the faster your metabolism, the more energy you need. By using more energy the body will wear out (or simply, die) faster.
Our metabolism is super slow compared to other mammals, some of whom have metabolisms 50% faster. Image if you would need to spend 50% more time on eating, it would take forever!
2. Different Types Of Food Allowed Us To Evolve
Most apes eat fruits and leaves, eating meat only when they have no choice. But early humans traveled many different places, and sometimes didn’t find fruits and leaves so they had to experiment with new types of food.
Nuts, seeds, fish, insects and small animals were products ancestors started to eat. And these products provided building blocks that helped evolve our brain, and by doing so increase our intelligence. This resulted in the early human eventually creating advanced tools and using fire, which further increased our development.
1. Human Faces Evolved To Withstand A Punch
It may sound funny to you, but our faces evolved to withstand punches. Of course, today most people stay away from fights, but before there were a lot more brutal battles between humans.
In the past, there wasn’t so much food and easy-to-get resources, so early humans had very limited choices and fought against each other for the best conditions to survive. Because of that, having a durable facial structure that can withstand a punch was a useful anatomical quality. After all, who would like to live without teeth, especially when most food in the past was uncooked and hard to chew?