[FOUNTAIN]Out of Africa“The human race originated in Africa.” Charles Darwin, an evolutionist in the 19th century, advocated that theory, and asserted that the primitive ancestors of the human race had lived in the southern jungles of Africa. The primitive human being, similar to the ape, went through dramatic evolution, while walking out of woods and traveling to Asia and Europe via the savannahs, or tropical plains. He believed that human beings began to stand erect to move quickly in open terrain and to look around in all directions and their brain capacity expanded.
But Darwin’s theory was not widely accepted for a hundred years after he propounded it. Europeans did not like to acknowledge that their ancestors walked out of Africa, the black continent. A skull and a jawbone found on a river bed in Britain in 1912 became a good weapon to attack Darwin. The skull was big, like a modern human being’s, and the jawbone was similar to that of an ape. Opponents of Darwin proclaimed that was the first human being. The skull and jawbone was taken as proud evidences that proved the ancestors of the human race came from Britain. But 40 years later the skull was identified as that of a medieval man, and the jawbone was confirmed as that of an orangutan.
The evidence supporting Darwin’s theory has been hidden in an African field. Two children’s skulls, buried for 2 million years, were discovered in southern Africa in 1924. The skulls were named “Australopithecus africanus.” As similar fossilized skulls were discovered in Tanzania and Ethiopia, the theory that the primitive ancestors of the human race lived in Africa gained wide acceptance. In fact, fossils of Australopithecus, who are believed to have lived 1 million to 4 million years ago, have been found only in Africa. But the immediate ancestors of modern humans are Homo sapiens, not Australopithecus. Fossils of Homo sapiens have been unearthed equally in each continent. Because of this, the Africa origination theory is still controversial.
Recently an international research team announced that it had discovered 160,000-year-old fossilized skulls of Homo sapiens in Ethiopia. Before the discovery, 100,000-year-old fossils were the limit of their antiquity. The research team named the fossilized skulls idaltu, or “elder” in the African language of the area, saying, “They prove that ancestors of modern humans originated in Africa.” The Africa of Darwin is clearer to us.
by Lee Kyu-youn
The writer is deputy national affairs editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.