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Human Migratory Patterns Through Icy Times

The last ice age saw herds of human beings journey to different parts of the world including Australia and Africa.

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A still from the film. Photo courtesy: Sony Pictures

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Sony Picture’s upcoming Alpha goes back to the origins of mankind. Set in the last Ice Age, 20,000 years ago, the film tells the tale of a young man who is abandoned. Left to fend for himself, he befriends a lone wolf that has been abandoned by its pack. Together, the duo face numerous obstacles and dangers as they navigate their way home.

Scientific research says that humans moved out of Africa about 60,000 years ago. At the time, they left genetic footprints that are visible to modern man even today. These great migrations ultimately led the progenies of a small group of Africans to inhabit even the furthermost reaches of the Earth.

Charles Darwin, naturalist and biologist and known for his contributions to the science of evolution, said that whenever a species is physically separated, small variations begin to tiptoe into its respective gene pools, creating diversity. With modern man, there were four main ethnic groups: Khoisan (African), Caucasian (European), Mongolian (Chinese and American Indian) and Aboriginal (Australian).

Africa is where man first evolved, and where they have spent the maximum amount of time on Earth. The earliest fossils of recognizably modern Homo sapiens appear in the fossil record at Omo Kibish skeleton site in Ethiopia, around 200,000 years ago. More recently, Professor Pamela Willoughby at the University of Alberta discovered modern human teeth in a rock shelter in Tanzania that may be over 200,000 years old. If confirmed, these will be the oldest remains of Homo sapiens ever discovered.


Migratory Intersections


Human Migratory Patterns Through Icy Times 1

A still from the film. Photo courtesy: Sony Pictures

Researchers have identified the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait on the Red Sea as the most likely departure point in Africa. Located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, this tight water stretch presented the shortest route to new continents. The Horn of Africa offers clues to how the human species might have distributed themselves along the coasts of Arabia, India, Southeast Asia, and all the way to Australia. Spots with garbage dumps filled with clam and oyster shells disclose that local inhabitants knew of coastal living and exploiting the sea long before any Red Sea crossings.


Archaeological evidence is what connects Australian Aborigines to the first migration wave. Early humans in Australia were once thought to have arrived 47,000 years ago, indicating one of the later stops in the journey of human migration. However, a new discovery, recently published in the journal Nature says that human arrival in Australia was 65,000 years ago, making Aboriginal Australian societies 18,000 years older than previously thought.

A team of archaeologists from the University of Queensland excavated a rock shelter in Majedbebe, a region in northern Australia, during digs conducted in 2012 and 2015. Among the artefacts found in the region were stone tools and hatchets, implying a momentous understanding of weapon making.


Genetic markings suggest that Europeans originating from a second migration wave from Africa took a meandering route via the Middle East into the grasslands of Central Asia before turning west. The trials and obstacle faced by these travellers, who had combated the cold and frost was illustrated by the start-stop colonization of Britain.

Britain’s first settlers were soon evicted by northern Europe’s unstable weather conditions about 25,000 years ago.The withdrawing of the ice sheet and warmer conditions around 12,000 years ago saw the tribes from taking refuges in continental Europe, one in the southwestern and one in the south-eastern part of the continent. At the time, sea levels remained low enough for them to make the journey by land, tempted by herds of reindeer and wild horse that had already made the crossing. Today, genetic patterns in European populations still preserve hints of the time their ancestors stagnated the last ice age in the southern refuge.

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