Yuval Noah Harari's wonderful book, 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind' is an eye-opener, and gives you just enough food for thought.
I don't usually write reviews for books, but I'll be making an exception here. A blog post shall come up soon, for the same.
What will follow is a series of excerpts from the book which I picked for this thread.
(Picture source: medium.com)
Homo sapiens has kept hidden an even more disturbing secret. Not only do we possess an abundance of uncivilised cousins, once upon a time we had quite a few brothers and sisters as well.
We are used to thinking about ourselves as the only humans, because for the last 10,000 years, our species has indeed been the only human species around.
Yet the real meaning of the word human is ‘an animal belonging to the genus Homo’, and there used to be many other species of this genus besides Homo sapiens.
Humans first evolved in East Africa about 2.5 million years ago from an earlier genus of apes called Australopithecus, which means ‘Southern Ape’.
About 2 million years ago, some of these archaic men and women left their homeland to journey through and settle vast areas of North Africa, Europe and Asia.
Since survival in the snowy forests of northern Europe required different traits than those needed to stay alive in Indonesia’s steaming jungles, human populations evolved in different directions.
The result was several distinct species, to each of which scientists have assigned a pompous Latin name.
Humans in Europe and western Asia evolved into Homo neanderthalensis (‘Man from the Neander Valley’), popularly referred to simply as ‘Neanderthals’.
The more eastern regions of Asia were populated by Homo erectus, ‘Upright Man’, who survived there for close to 2 million years, making it the most durable human species ever.
On the island of Java, in Indonesia, lived Homo soloensis, ‘Man from the Solo Valley’, who was suited to life in the tropics. On another Indonesian island – the small island of Flores – archaic humans underwent a process of dwarfing.
Humans first reached Flores when the sea level was exceptionally low, and the island was easily accessible from the mainland. When the seas rose again, some people were trapped on the island, which was poor in resources.
Big people, who need a lot of food, died first. Smaller fellows survived much better. Over the generations, the people of Flores became dwarves.
This unique species, known by scientists as Homo floresiensis, reached a maximum height of only one metre and weighed no more than twenty-five kilograms.
While these humans were evolving in Europe and Asia, evolution in East Africa did not stop.
The cradle of humanity continued to nurture numerous new species, such as Homo rudolfensis, ‘Man from Lake Rudolf’, Homo ergaster, ‘Working Man’, and eventually our own species, which we’ve immodestly named Homo sapiens, ‘Wise Man’.
Some were fearsome hunters and others meek plant-gatherers. Some lived only on a single island , while many roamed over continents. But all of them belonged to the genus Homo. They were all human beings.
It’s a common fallacy to envision these species as arranged in a straight line of descent, with Ergaster begetting Erectus, Erectus begetting the Neanderthals, and the Neanderthals evolving into us.
The truth is that from about 2 million years ago until around 10,000 years ago, the world was home, at one and the same time, to several human species. And why not?
The earth was once walked by at least six species of man. It’s our current exclusivity, not that multi-species past, that is peculiar – and perhaps incriminating.
We still have lot to learn and there still are mysterys and secrets hidden underground