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From Homo Erectus to Nowadays
Authored, Illustrated & Narrated by Oğuz Yılmazlar | Edited by Lee Vallance & Gergely Lázár | Published by Lee Vallance
"Our whole universe was in a hot, dense state.
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago, expansion started, wait..."
My favourite TV show "The Big Bang Theory" begins with these lyrics.
Africa; the first land of humanity.
Around 2 million years ago, Homo erectus arose. These were the first known Homo using their legs effectively. Of course, not as much as us, but this feature kept them one step ahead of other Homo classifications. We found their fossils in around the 1890s, and we noticed that we could classify them as "our first ancestors". Their fossils were found on Cava Island, then in Beijing and Algeria. They spread to the old world (Africa, Europe, Asia), prevailing until around 250,000 BC (1).
Also, we have found fossils of Homo Heidelbergensis, Floresiensis, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and of course Sapiens. These discoveries have taught us many things: The history of humans is not as simple as many of us think. There are deeper classes inside. Even if we have tons of evidence about evolution, there are still millions of people who reject it, but this is not the topic of this article.
Except for Neanderthals, all kinds of Homos were from Africa. Neanderthals mostly lived in Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa.
When Homo sapiens began to reach lands in Europe, also Asia, they met Neanderthals first, but Sapiens were more talented, analytical thinkers with bigger brains, and resilience to natural events. Slowly and somehow, they defeated (or coupled with) Neanderthals, which were the last kind of Homo who coexisted with Sapiens. The rest were already history. When the last Neanderthals perished, the Sapiens inherited the Earth (at least, they would like to think so). Now, Sapiens were in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Southern Asia; shortly, except for America, everywhere.
But, there was a problem. Africa was too hot and dry, but while humans reached to the north, they faced ice and cold. Sunshine alone was not enough anymore. There was a big advantage of being a brunette in Africa. Dark-pigmented people living in highly sunlit environments are at an advantage due to the higher amount of melanin produced in their skin. Such pigmentation reinforces shielding against DNA damage and absorbs the appropriate amount of UV radiation needed by the body, as well as protecting against folate depletion. But near the Poles, limited sunshine reaches Earth. It means that dark-skinned people living in lowly sunlit environments have been recorded to be very susceptible to vitamin D deficiency due to reduced vitamin D synthesis. Thus, a dark-skinned person requires about six times as much UVB than a lightly-pigmented person. This is not a problem near the equator, however, but it can be a problem at higher latitudes (2).
Fortunately, evolution was in action. Their body shape, face shape, skin colour, and other features have evolved as needed. Over thousands of years, they got lighter and lighter skin and became taller and more well-built. Lighter skin could get the limited sunshine that it needs, taller height was like trying to reach the limited sunshine, and the muscled body was suitable to fight with animals. It happened in Europe and Asia.
At the same time, the rest of the Sapiens had somehow never left Africa. They stayed in our motherland. Of course, they retained their original skin colour to protect themselves from hot weather and sunshine that glistened on them directly. They were hunting game in the steppes of Africa, but they had to run after it. So, sporting lean legs and an agile body was crucial. Evolution helped them in this way.
Thousands of years passed. Sapiens started to establish civilizations independently. In Anatolia/Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, South America and of course, Africa. Each one was unique and valuable.
Around 5,000 years ago, we started to write the history of humanity. Cultural conditions, love stories, religions and of course, wars. Slowly, each civilization engaged and acquired the other's positive and negative sides, and we created new civilizations. We discovered America, Australia, many islands, and so on.
But something strange happened, especially when "the white man" discovered America. They conquered "new lands", discovered farm products, and then gold, but they needed slaves to work for them. They found a solution, bring people from Africa. They did it but in a bad way. These people had no rights, voice or choice in front of their white lords.
I will not write anything else about this topic, because it turns towards the internal issues of some countries that everyone knows about already.
The problem I would like to talk about is, even in 2020, we had to revisit a serious topic that we had left behind already.
Leaving the motherland of Africa earlier and becoming pale-skinned does not mean they have the upper hand on people who left Africa later.
We should not forget that evolution provided something different to each of us. Africans are still running at the Olympic games like their ancestors who hunted on foot. Northern Asians and Europeans are wrestling at sports competitions like their ancestors who fought one-on-one with beasts.
In short, skin colour does not make a person a lord or slave. Each of us has different talents and features but being a slave is not one of them.
I hope we do not lose any more lives, just because of skin colour.
This article is dedicated to people all around the world who have had their lives cut short by racists.
Dimitra Papagianni & Michael Morse - Neanderthals