We have to remember how remarkably successful Homo sapiens have been. Homo sapiens are now on every continent and in the harshest environments. It seems like they can live anywhere. They can live on land, on ice, and even, to some extent, in the sea.
In an interesting television series called The Great Human Odyssey, Niobe Thompson said that he wanted to learn how the ancient world shaped humans and how humans managed to overcome the extreme obstacles in their path. From Africa, humans migrated around the globe to settle in all of the earth’s diverse ecosystems. To do that, humans had to be extraordinarily flexible in order not just to survive, but also ultimately to thrive, in an unpredictable and hostile world.
As Thompson said, “The more we learn about prehistoric migrations, the more impressive early humans become – they too were masters of exploration, they adapted as they went, and they were brave enough to look over the next hill, or beyond the ocean horizon.”
Our ancestors engaged in a series of remarkable migrations. Certainly one of the most incredible was the arrival of humans in the Western Hemisphere during the last Ice Age. That was an unbelievable journey from Arctic Asia to North America when glaciers still covered half of North America. This was Thompson’s conclusion:
“Each of these journeys into our past reinforced the same lesson: our ancestors were extraordinary people, capable of far more than we give them credit. They were curious and adventurous risk-takers, they were masters of technology, they thought like scientists, and they were fun loving, artistically sensitive, and emotionally complex.”
Because of this astonishing flexibility, intelligence, and ability to work in co-operative groups, Homo sapiens accomplished so much that they could learn to live, and live well, in every environment on earth.
Yet as Niobe Thompson said, “the more we learn about prehistoric migrations, the more impressive early humans become – they too were masters of exploration, they adapted as they went, and they were brave enough to look over the next hill, or beyond the ocean horizon.”
Thompson wanted to learn how this was possible. He claimed, “the reason humans were so resourceful was that humans evolved during the most volatile era the planet has experienced since the extinction of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. In my opinion, It was a classic case of ‘what did not kill us made us stronger.” Not only that, but they were able to pass on that new strength to their offspring in a classic case of Darwinian evolution.
Thompson, in the television series latched on to modern scientific research which showed that our amazing ancestors emerged in Africa just as global conditions went completely weird. Thompson claims that “these extraordinary challenges were in fact what made Homo sapiens so special that they could survive what destroyed their cousins, other hominins:
Humans were forged by calamity. We became tenacious, virtually impossible to wipe out, incredibly good at dealing with change. We became fast-breeding settlers, a relentless colonizer. As soon as the modern brain evolved, our species became unstoppable. The very mind that today believes it needs a new smart phone every 12 months is the same one that invented and adapted its way from the parched Kalahari Desert to the shores of the Arctic Ocean within 1,500 generations. To put that into perspective, before that point in time – over the previous 100,000 generations (2 million years) – earlier humans invented only a single primitive tool, the stone hand-axe.”
There is not doubt about it. Our ancestors were remarkable people.