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Scientists find exact location of first humans’ homeland

Shaun Wooller, October 29, 2019 7:00PM The Sun

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Until now, the exact location of where Homo sapiens first lived has not been known. Picture: iStock media_cameraUntil now, the exact location of where Homo sapiens first lived has not been known. Picture: iStock

geography

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Scientists have identified the exact place where humans first walked the Earth.

The Australian-led team of scientists believes our original homeland lies to the south of the Zambezi River, in northern Botswana.

It is here that the earliest ancestors of everyone alive today probably arose* 200,000 years ago.

The region was then thought to be lush green and home to an enormous lake.

media_cameraA bend in the Boteti River, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Botswana. Much of this region is now desert but was once lush and home to an enormous lake. Picture: supplied

It allowed Homo sapiens to thrive in this one place for 70,000 years until climate change forced or allowed them to disperse*, either because they needed to find a better place to live, or as the land surrounding them that had been desert became hotter and wetter.

The move paved the way for humans to migrate out of Africa and then across the world.

Fossil finds had suggested humans arose in eastern Africa and genetic* analyses had hinted at southern Africa.

But new research has pinpointed the location to the Makgadikgadi wetlands.

The lake was twice the size of modern-day Lake Victoria* but the area is now largely desert and salt pans.

A global team of researchers used genetics*, geology* and physics* to map the bloodline* and the land.

Professor Vanessa Hayes, a geneticist from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in NSW, said it was the first time the site has been located.

“It has been clear for some time that anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago,” she said.

“What has been long debated is the exact location of this emergence and subsequent dispersal of our earliest ancestors.

“This is the first time the exact location has been identified.”

Tourists enjoying a horse riding safari through at the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans near Camp Kalahari in Botswana during the wet season migration. media_cameraTourists enjoying a horseriding safari through the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana, during the wet season migration.

Our ancestors migrated out of the homeland between 130,000 and 110,000 years ago.

The first migrants ventured north, followed by a second wave that travelled south west. A third population remained.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

This story was first published in The Sun and is republished here with permission.

GLOSSARY

  • arose: originate, come into being
  • disperse: spread over a wide area
  • genetic: relating to genes in a living or once-living thing passed down through generations
  • Lake Victoria: one of the African Great Lakes; covers about 60,000 sqkm; second largest lake in the world after Lake Superior in North America
  • genetics: study of genes and heredity
  • geology: science of rocks, soil and structure of the Earth
  • physics: science of energy and matter
  • bloodline: a diagram showing how people are related over generations; like a family tree

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Meet MRD, humans’ oldest cousin

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Describe where the Makgadikgadi wetlands was.
  2. How big was the Makgadikgadi wetlands? What is there now?
  3. Where did each of the three early populations of Homo sapiens go?
  4. How long ago did life begin on Earth?
  5. When did Homo sapiens evolve?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Puppet play
Work in small groups (3-4 students) to create a short and informative puppet play of how life evolved. Use the timeline in the Kids News article as your main source of information, choose who you think the main life forms are to represent in your play and divide up who is making which puppet (you could just draw a picture and use icy pole sticks to stick them onto).

Work together on a short script on how you present your puppets so you could teach students in other classes about how life evolved on Earth from your play.

Time: allow 50 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, History, Drama

2. Extension
A quote from the article stated that the huge lake “allowed Homo sapiens to thrive for 70,000 years until climate change forced them to disperse”. Homo sapiens is the scientific name for the human species. Compare and contrast how climate change back then might be similar or different to what we are currently facing on Earth in 2019, recording your findings in a two-column table with SIMILAR and DIFFERENT at the top of each column.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Dear diary
Imagine you are a part of the first migrants who ventured North to try and recolonise in another area.

Think about who you are. Why you are leaving? Do you have family coming with you? What supplies or tools might you have? Talk about your feelings as you prepare to leave to find a new home.

Just before you leave. Make your mark. Head into the local cave and leave a short cave picture to describe an event that caused you to leave or who you and your family are.

Draw your cave picture under your diary entry.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Where on Earth and when in history would you choose to live? Would you choose here and now?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in geography