“Our common ancestry through the Mitochondrial Eve means that our genetic differences are literally skin deep, that at the bottom, we are all descended from the same family.” - Associate Professor Edmund Abaka in Africa’s Great Civilizations
Watch Origins: Hour One of Africa’s Greatest Civilizations and have students conduct research on the major activities in Africa and the development of human civilization. Homo sapiens originated in Africa. Populate a timeline that includes key activities that lead to the migration from Africa 80,000 years ago. What are some of the hypothesized activities or occurrences that led to this migration?
Why did migration happen 80,000 years ago, and what key events occurred in the timeframes below that are significant in our shared human origins? What is one of the key activities that might have propelled the migration to other continents?
A Selection of Possible Answers:
200,000 years ago: Mitochondrial Eve exists
120,000: Migration throughout Africa begins
Between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago: A great migration began. The cause is uncertain, but possible climate shifts with a sudden cooling in the Earth’s climate driven by the onset of one of the worst parts of the last Ice Age might be one reason The ability to communicate with spoken language could also factor into this
10,000 years ago: Rise of agriculture which included a shift to farming from hunting and gathering. Beginning to breed animals and livestock
6,000 years ago: The lush savanna had turned into desert, forcing a necessary migration towards the Nile Valley, which formed the ancestors of both the Egyptians and the Nubians.
The origins of humanity can be traced back to Africa, with Homo sapiens found in Africa’s Great Rift Valley about 200,000 years ago. All humans share a common direct maternal ancestor known as Mitochondrial Eve. Mitochondrial DNA found in our cells is the genetic signature that passes from mother to child. Mitochondrial Eve was a woman who lived 200,000 years ago who had enough daughters in a continuous chain that her Mitochondrial DNA survived.
Homo sapiens eventually migrated across the African continent around 120,000 years ago. It is only between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago that some common ancestors began to leave the continent.
Because of this history, Africa is considered the most genetically diverse of all the continents, with various peoples from the rest of the world forming a subset of that diversity.
The descendants of our common ancestors who remained in Africa passed through many of the same great historical transitions during the same eras as those who migrated. This includes the transition from foraging (hunting and gathering) to farming societies, occurring between 10,000 and 5,000 BC, and transitions such as the emergence of towns and urban life that notably began developing in the early fourth millennium BC along the Nubian Nile south of Egypt.