By 60,000 years ago, hardly a few moments of geological time, our species had become relatively mature having been developing for 100,000 since becoming a species in our own right.
The manufacture of spear points was old and well developed technology but 30,000 years before this time, the species had come perilously close to extinction with no more than 10,000 breeding pairs, huddled into the south western corner of Africa, living off what could be collected in the tidal area.
In the following 10,000 years we had taken advantage of the development in our torso, into a form that permitted the complex range of sounds required to generate speech.
Speech is a critical factor in our development because it made several critical issues easier to manage. With speech, important information could be shared, especially helpful in hunting and food gathering. Speech also provided a method of eliminating unintentional slights and misconstrued actions, smoothing the cooperation and cohesion of the group, something that could only be achieved previously by grooming.
About 16,000 years later, an event occurred that once again saw us on the brink of destruction. Sumatra’s Toba is a supervolcano similar to Yellowstone National Park and when it exploded 74,000 years ago, there followed 6 years of cold dark winter, a time of gradually diminishing darkness and freezing temperatures.
Four thousand years later, Yellowstone had its most recent lava flow but that was nothing like the next major eruption which is statistically due any day now, within 50,000 years or so anyway.
Over the next 10,000 years, our species gradually spread out from Africa and evolved into most of the different ‘races’ of people we see today. As travel was limited to no more than a few kilometres a year, groups is each area of the world gradually assumed a distinct local look and in areas further away from the equator, lighter skin tones evolved to cope with our ongoing problem with ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Too much radiation and skin cancer takes over, too little and vitamin D deficiency is the cause of early death.
So, by 60,000 years ago, we have our species spread across much of the accessible land mass and a patchwork of small variations depending on local conditions.
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