Migration In Early Human History Essays Example
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Before humanity had the ability to settle down into stationary villages and permanent settlements, the groups of people on the planet were largely migratory. They followed the food and the resources that they needed to survive; it was not until much later, when human beings began to be able to domesticate plants an animals, that humanity was able to settle into permanent villages and form true communities. In the years before this was possible, humanity spent much of its time and energy ensuring that the people of a group of hunter/gatherers could survive on a daily basis.
Human beings and our close ancestors—including Homo Erectus—have always been migratory (Diamond, 1998). There is very strong evidence to suggest that humanity and early human ancestors first arose in Africa, and then migrated outward to the Near East and the Fertile Crescent (Diamond, 1998). Research also suggests that these early humans and human ancestors were migrating for a plethora of reasons. Reasons for migration included a number of important pressures that still occur today: conflict with other groups was a main cause for migration, but increasing unavailability of food and shelter, as well as increased disease, growing population, and environmental degradation were all reasons for human migration in the early years of human history (Tignor, 2011).
Understanding the root causes of human migration is fundamentally important to understanding the development of humanity as a whole, and gives light to the general patterns of migration that are still seen in the world today. Although human migration is happening in greater numbers today than it ever has before, it was the early migrations of humanity that allows today’s migratory patterns to exist (Tignor, 2011).
Major Migrations in Human History
The earliest humans, according to the most recent anthropological and historical theories, existed in Africa; therefore, most of the earliest human migrations also took place within the African continent (Tignor, 1998). However, one of the most important human migrations was the one that took humans out of Africa, and into the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent is the area in the Near and Middle East where Iran and Iraq lie today; this area was a very fertile farmland at the time of early human migration.
This migration to the Fertile Crescent was one of the most important steps for humanity and the development of human civilization as it exists today. Of the Fertile Crescent, Diamond (1998) writes: “Thanks to this availability of suitable wild mammals and plants, early peoples of the Fertile Crescent could quickly assemble a potent and balanced biological package for intensive food productionEventually, thousands of years after the beginnings of animal domestication and food production, the animals also began to be used for milk, wool, plowing, and transport. Thus, the crops and animals of the Fertile Crescent's first farmers came to meet humanity's basic economic needs: carbohydrate, protein, fat, clothing, traction, and transport” (Diamond, 1998). In short, it was this major migration to the Fertile Crescent that allowed humanity to develop past the hunter-gatherer types that had roamed the plains of Africa. It was this development that truly gave rise to the ability of humans to create culture as well (Tignor, 2011).
Another major migration of humanity was the migration to Eastern Asia. Even during early human history, Asia was incredibly populous; the land and climate is incredibly varied, and has given rise to a number of different types of peoples and many different cultural traditions (Tignor, 2011). To get to Asia, the people of Asia followed large migratory mammals like the Mastodon, hunting these animals for food and pelts (Tignor, 2011).
A later, but also very important migration in humanity is the migration of the Paleo-Indians from Siberia, across the Beringia Land Bridge, and into the Americas (Diamond, 1998). These Paleo-Indians would give rise to all the varied cultures of North, Central, and South America, including the Mayans, Aztecs, and so on. There is some discussion regarding how these individuals actually got to the Americas, because some scientists claim that the land bridge is an unlikely method; some claim that boats are more likely for a means of transport (Diamond, 1998). However, generally-accepted scientific theory suggests that these individuals migrated using the land bridge, following the animals that they hunted into the Americas (Diamond, 1998).
The final major migration for early humanity is the migration of the Cro-Magnon human beings into Europe. These people spread north from Africa, across southern Europe and into the farthest northern reaches of the area (Tignor, 2011). Scientific testing of mitochondrial DNA has demonstrated that many of the individuals in these areas show a common matriarchal lineage in their mitochondrial DNA (Diamond, 1998).
Causes of Migration
There are many different causes for migration; these causes are even more complex in today’s world, because human culture has evolved to be much more complex in today’s world. However, the general theory remains the same, regardless of whether the topic of discussion is the early human or the modern human; human beings migrate when they begin to feel some kind of pressure in their current environment (Diamond, 1998). When people can migrate, they will do so; especially when their environment has become stressful in some way.
One of the major reasons early humans migrated was to follow their food (Tignor, 2011). As food became scarce in one area, early humans commonly followed it to other, less populated areas; as the animals roamed further and further, early humans followed for the purposes of hunting and gathering (Tignor, 2011). It is commonly thought that this is the reason why early humans populated East Asia and the Americas—they were following the animals that they commonly hunted for food (Tignor, 2011).
Another important reason for migration was population pressure (Diamond, 1998). As humans became more successful as hunters, they also began to feel population pressure in certain areas; they began to move farther afield to ensure that they were not clashing with other groups of humans or human-like species. Conflict between groups was common in the early human world, and to avoid this conflict, early humans would migrate to places that were less populated and the competition for food and resources was less intense (Diamond, 1998). This ensured the greatest likelihood of survival for people within a particular community or group, which was the goal for early humans. Essentially, early humans tended to migrate when they felt that the fear of the unknown was outweighed by the fear of what they would face in their current living situation (Diamond, 1998).
Means of Migration
For the most part, early humans only had one way to migrate: they walked. Because animals had yet to be domesticated, they could not ride horses or camels, nor had they invented the wheel or carts; human beings in the early stages of historical development walked and ran most of the time, and chased their prey on foot (Diamond, 1998). Humans are endurance hunters, which means that they would catch and kill prey by running their prey down until it was exhausted and had to stop running. This ability to run and walk for long periods of time made it much easier for humans to migrate the long distances necessary to populate all corners of the globe (Diamond, 1998).
There is some research that suggests that early humans may have used boats to migrate to the Americas, but there is little evidence to support this claim. Any evidence of boats would have disappeared, and there is little evidence to suggest that early humans would have been incapable of following their prey over the land bridge from Asia; however, the theory persists to this day, and some scientists still lend it credence (Diamond, 1998).
Humanity has a number of unique attributes that allowed it to migrate so widely so quickly. Without the combination of endurance and intelligence, it seems unlikely that humanity would have been able to spread to the far reaches of the globe and populate it with such ease.
Diamond, J. (1998). Guns, germs, and steel. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Tignor, R. (2011). Worlds together, worlds apart. New York, N.Y., [etc.]: Norton.
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