What is true human history? The surprising answer may surprise you. Contrary to what many school teachers tell their students, humans are not genetically unique. In fact, we are closer to all other forms of life on earth than we probably realize. A new kind of fossil evidence suggests that our ancestors interbred with Neanderthal ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago.
But there is much more to this story than just genetics. Much of what we think of as history, such as why did the initial settlers arrive at the New World or why did the Ice Age end after about 90,000 years ago, has its roots in the study of genetics. The first Americans did not arrive in America until they had a mix of European and Native American genes, according to studies of ancient DNA. Similarly, the separation of the Western and Eastern Hemispheres could be traced back to differences in genetic material that originated in Africa and spread across the world just as the migration patterns of modern humans can be traced to their origin in Africa.
As the explosion of the non-Indo-European ethnic groups around ten thousand years ago began, each group brought with them its own unique language, culture, customs, and society. Some groups emerged as larger cultural and political entities, while others became isolated and gradually vanished from the world. As a result, true human history has never been completely written in a single book. One thing we do know is that for the last fifteen thousand years or so, all of the major ethnic groups of humankind have been on a genetic patchwork, trying to stay ahead of the other groupings by creating new mutations that will help them to adapt better to their environment.
There are genetic differences today between human populations, even within different countries or regions. But the most common genetic trait that researchers have identified is language. When two ethnic groups split off from each other, they often developed new languages and diverged further along the linguistic family tree than they were supposed to, even genetically. This pattern has been seen across many different languages and has been confirmed by careful linguistics studies using the latest genetic methods.
The question of what is truly human history remains open. Researchers may never be able to answer it conclusively. The fact is that the archaeological and anthropological records are thin on the ground. We can look at some ancient sites but there are no written records. And the few genetic admixtures that we can study came from farming communities where people were usually of the same genetic type, brought together by the invaders from different ethnic groups.
But thanks to new technology like genomics and genome sequencing, the picture is starting to get more clear. There have already been several studies that directly compared the DNA of modern humans from distant relatives like Asian and Native American populations. Those studies showed striking similarities between these two sets of DNA. Similarly, recent studies from the United Kingdom and France show that Europeans in the past branched out into many different gene pools, but that today their genetic traces are very similar.
So the conclusion that can be drawn is that the split between anatomically modern human beings and more genetically diverse ancestors who browsed the savanna may have occurred in the Paleolithic era. It is known that anatomically modern humans branched out from a group of hunter-gatherers who lived in the early Paleolithic era across the ancient divide between Africa and Europe. It is also known that there was a massive migration out of Africa into Asia and across the Babylonia mountain range towards the East. Some of the ancestries of Native Americans can also be traced to these early settlers.