The Greatest Travelling Expedition Ever
Hunter-gatherers – 200,000 BC > 5000 BC
About 200,000 years ago, humans were done. We’d stopped changing. Essentially the brains, the bodies and the abilities we have today, we had 200,000 years ago. Sure, we’ve grown a bit due to a more consistent, higher protein (possibly higher hormone-laced) diet. But, for the most part, we were done. So when you picture what humans looked like way back when, basically picture the people around you (just imagine they’d be wearing significantly different outfits and spending a heck of a lot more time outdoors).
For the bulk of human history – 200,000 years ago until about 5,000 years ago – humans had been nomads, hunter-gatherers. We started in Africa and gradually spread out first to Asia (90,000 years ago), then eventually to Australia (50,000 years ago), then Europe (40,000 years ago) and finally to North and South America (12,000 years go). We lived in small bands of family-based units, varying in size from ten to 100 people. The men hunted and the women gathered, not because there was prehistoric sexism, but because it made sense to keep women closer while they were making babies and feeding them the mammalian way. The survival of the clan depended on it. Women were also the primary food providers. They brought home the guaranteed food – the nuts, the berries, the roots, the grubs – and the men every once in awhile might track down and kill a beast, providing the clan with some much-needed protein.
We didn’t live in permanent structures. We couldn’t. The big food was always roaming and so were we. Predators, both human and animal, were always a danger, as we were no more than a main course in the circle of life. Our shelters might have been a skeleton-framed home made from a fallen wooly mammoth, but more than likely we lived in stick tents or stretched animal hide coverings that could be easily taken down and transported to the next location.
As for how many humans existed way back when, the numbers vary, but scientists usually settle on about only five to ten thousand – the survival of our species was by no means a sure thing. We gradually increased into the hundreds of thousands as we spread across Africa and Asia, but then for some reason our numbers drastically dropped. A recent theory being thrown around, the “population bottleneck theory,” states...