No ancient ‘Garden of Eden’? Humans likely evolved all over Africa

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Image: James Oatway/Reuters

The evolution and spread of Homo sapiens is perhaps one of the greatest mysteries in all of science. Until recently, it was believed that the origins of the species and the ancestors of every person now alive originated in one specific part of Africa.

This theory was for a long-time the accepted wisdom, but it has been challenged in recent years. Now it is increasingly probable that H. sapiens originated in several separate areas of Africa.

[S]ome of the oldest early human fossils found have been unearthed in North Africa, a different area of the continent than would be expected. Moreover, certain anatomical features such as a rounded skull was found in Ethiopia, while the first evidence of symbolic thought, namely rock-art was found in Southern Africa.

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It appears that populations became separated and reconnected many times over 400,000 years, because of climate change and environmental factors. The Guardian reports that “the end product was H. sapiens.”

As a result, there was in all likelihood no single ‘Eden’ or cradle of humanity. Rather the development of modern humans was a result of a complex set of interactions.

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