In The Beginning
The beginning, a pair of words that means a lot, but sometimes is hard to pair down when you really think about it. No, really, when you say “the beginning” in regards to both human life and the beginning of the world itself, you’re going to get a lot of different answers from a lot of different people. Some based in the realm of science, some based in religion, and some who have other ideas entirely.
And because history isn’t as far reaching as you might think in terms of documents, there’s a LOT of speculation as to when the Earth was really formed, and thus, when humanity started to populate areas. This conflicting and often confusing set of information points means that the true beginning of exploration really isn’t known. And in fact, every time we seem to get ‘close’ to an answer, an archaeological dig of some kind reveals new artifacts that change everything we thought we knew.
So as you can see, even saying “in the beginning of Earth” is making a lot of assumptions. So where can we begin with an exploration of the discovery of the world, when we don’t know when everything started to fall into place?
Simple, we do all people do when faced with this kind of problem…we guess.
When it comes to the theories that guide our beliefs in terms of where life started, those of a scientific and archaeological nature seem to always point to one continent in particular as the “birthplace” of humanity. And that would be Africa. Which obviously is slightly ironic as the continent as a whole is viewed as “third-world” in many aspects because of the lack of technology within many of its countries and sometimes “primitive” ways of life. But that’s another topic entirely.
The exact origin point of life in Africa to start is a bit sketchy, but many people point to the area that is now Ethiopia as a likely candidate. And the year that it was “discovered” in certain ways is believed to be 195,000 B.C.
This is based not just on evidence of the area, but fossils of Homo Sapiens (meaning humans…) that were found and carbon dated. Hence the date I gave you a little bit ago.
So Ethiopia is the starting point, and all exploration that occurred after that would be “new discoveries”.
Now you might think that because of 195,000 BC being the “start date” of humanity that exploration of Africa happened rapidly, but that’s not the case. Travel and exploration weren’t on the minds on the early Homo Sapiens like they were in more modern times. So they honestly stayed where they were because they knew they could live.
It wasn’t until tens of thousands of years later that they went from Ethiopia to Sudan, which are neighbors. And a couple tens of thousands of years after that did they reach South Africa.
So as you can see, not unlike modern times, exploration took time and effort. But eventually, all things had to branch out to get to where they are today, and thus the journey led them…
Out Of Africa
Africa is a big place, but to get to where we are in the world today people needed to get out of it. So what was the first place they went to that wasn’t officially on the continent? We honestly don’t have to think too hard on this, because technology wouldn’t have allowed them to go too far. Thus, the early Homo Sapiens went from Africa to Arabia. Or as we would call it today, Yemen. Again, this is very logical as Yemen and Africa wouldn’t have been too difficult a gap to cross due to space. This happened about 125,000 years ago give or take.
Once that culture of people started to populate the area, they too began to expand, and that led them to the land we now know as Israel about 100,000 years ago give or take. Also around that time the early Arabians reached Oman, further expanding their reach in the area just out of Africa.
So if you’re keeping track, it took about 90,000-ish years to get out of Africa and into the very nearby lands that the world had put next to them. Not exactly the “running start” you would expect when it came to world exploration don’t you think?
Asia’s Population Growth
As humanity began to expand, it continued to reach in all directions of the world. At this time, Africa had not been fully discovered, so progress was still being made on that front, such as reaching the areas that we now know as the Republic of Congo. But just as important, people started to reach out to the eastern parts of the world, including diving ever deeper into the continent we know as Asia.
For example, by about 70,000 years ago, humanity had reached India. Which if you recall is the second most populated nation in the world today, which means that from then to now it grew to support billions of people. And after 3000 years, the people went so far east that they reached the Philippines, which still stand as a mighty island nation. Which means that the desire to live in such places was born a very long time ago. Though still, exploration of the area was slow, as it took another 17,000 years for Taiwan to be found and colonized by Homo Sapiens.
Though also by this time Africa had been pretty much explored by humans, including reaching the far west side of the continent and also reaching Egypt. Another nation that has massive ties to the world at large.
Instead of going east, let’s head south, shall we? About 48,000 years ago, Australia was first found by humans. Which is pretty astonishing when you think about it given the size of the nation and all the other lands that they didn’t touch from the Philippines to there in order to reach it. But again, this wasn’t the modern world, this was a time when technology was the boats you had and the weapons you used. GPS and other image-based technologies couldn’t help guide you. All you had was the stars, the sun, the moon and other landmarks that you can try and base directions on.
Getting back to Australia, the real irony here was that though these people had discovered Australia tens of thousands of years ago…they really weren’t disturbed until much more recent history. Seriously, it wasn’t until 1770 with a man named James Cook that Australia found themselves on a much larger world stage. And of course we all know how people love going “Down Under” now, but it was anything but a catchphrase back then.
You almost have to wonder what Australia would be like if they were “found” by travelers sooner than then, or much later.
Remember all the lands I noted that people missed on the way to Australia 48,000 years ago? Well to their credit, they were eventually found and inhabited. But not in the order you might expect. In fact, Japan was “found” first in around 47,000 BC, and then in 46,000 BC we found Laos and Indonesia.
Obviously, nowadays these island nations are a very big part of our world, but back then? They were just pieces of land that were found along the way. History isn’t always as grand as you would expect when it’s just starting out if you can’t tell.
Anyway, let’s move on to a final island nation. But not in the west, but the east. Because 45,000 years ago we arrived in Greece, which would set the stage for European exploration that would obviously change the way we see the world as a whole.
Today, Europe as a continent is one of the most important places in the world. It has some of the biggest and most powerful nations, is the focal point of the most popular sport in the world (futbol is more popular than football, sorry!) and on and on.
But when it comes to the discovery of Europe? It’s a little bit sporadic. As noted, the homo sapiens went from Africa to the areas next to them and then eventually made their way to Greece. After that they went to Italy, but then, somehow, they ended up in the UK. No, not by boating there, there used to be a land bridge that connected Europe as a whole to the UK, obviously that’s gone now. Not long after that, 42,000 years ago to be precise-ish, they found Germany.
But it took another 14,000 years for places like France, the Czech Republic and other areas of Europe to be found, so again, it wasn’t the easiest continent to explore and “discover”. It took until about 20,000 years ago for the “final” nations of Europe to be discovered. That’s a lot a long gap between the discovery of certain nations.
For the record, I’m speaking of what we now consider North and South America, not just the United States. But let me put you into a pop quiz situation. What was the first part of the Americas (either north or south) that had been discovered? It wasn’t the US, or Brazil, or even Mexico, it was actually Alaska. Because not unlike how the UK was attached to Europe by a land bridge, the same was true of one time with Alaska and Russia.
But the twist is that it was found about 40,000 years to maybe 25,000 years ago. Which technically means that Alaska was “discovered” before all of Europe was officially found. How’s that for ironic?
As for the mainland that we know as Canada, the US, Mexico, Central America, and the top parts of South America, that was founded by people in about 16,000-14,000 years ago. WELL BEFORE Columbus or anyone from Europe decided to go to the “New World”, so let’s stop with that nonsense, shall we? After all, the native people had to get there first, remember?
Anyway, let’s just move on.
For more earth facts read this post!
Filling In The Map
By the time we get to 7500 BC, the map of the world is really starting to fill in. All of Europe as we know it right now has been discovered, Asia in its massive form is basically discovered too with some very small outliers. Such as Malta finally being discovered in 5200 BC.
By 2000 BC the Vikings had discovered Greenland (which they named thus because they wanted it to be a lure for people instead of going to more fertile lands…what jokers they were). And by 1000 BC the island nations of Samoa, Fiji and Vanatu were found floating around. The people who found them were the Polynesians, the legendary seafaring race that also founded Hawaii.
But…that wasn’t until the AD period of history. 290 AD to be specific. So over 1000 years passed before a true discovery had been made.
Oh, but there’s a bigger irony coming, trust me.
They say that people sometimes just aren’t observant. And when you look at the map of the world, you’ll notice that there’s a massive island we now call Madagascar placed REALLY close to Africa. Yet despite that, it wasn’t found until 500 AD!
Think about that, that means that since the “inception” of Homo Sapiens in Africa around 192,000 BC, they didn’t find Madagascar, their neighbor, for nearly 200,000 years!
Timing? Coincidence? Dumb luck? You be the judge.
What’s that? Which African nation found Madagascar? None of them, it was people from Borneo! You know, the island nation ACROSS THE INDIAN OCEAN!!!
The Beginning of the End
If you wish to look for the “last truly big find” on the map, you have a few places to look. Such as 1300 AD when New Zealand was finally found by Polynesians.
Then, during the “European Age of Exploration”, a scattering of islands were “found” by them. Many were already populated though. Yet they did find some key places, including Bermuda (a wonderful vacation spot) in 1609.
Fast forward to 1770 and many other small remote islands had been found, including the Seychelles (another wonderful vacation spot).
By 1800, the map was REALLY filled up, but there were some other small islands and places to be discovered, and to their credit, people did find them.
Yet if you’ve been paying attention…there is one really big place I haven’t mentioned.
Yeah, that place. The coldest place on Earth and the place where humanity honestly doesn’t mind leaving alone for various reasons. Antarctica was first “discovered” by man in 1820 via a Russian explorer. But here’s the catch, he didn’t land on it. Oh well. It would only take 75 years for a landing to happen though via a group of Norwegians.
And with that find…the Earth had been fully and completely discovered…right?
More To Find?
Here’s the thing, the Earth isn’t just a planet, it’s a place that grows and evolves. Especially if you believe in Pangea and what happened to cause the 7 continents to be formed.
Plus, there are these things called Volcanoes that can be born from pressure under the oceans and cause new islands to be born. When that happens, it means there’s more to find.
And don’t forget the ocean itself, it’s basically its own little world and we only know about 5% of it. That’s a lot of ocean to explore.
So while exploration may not be the biggest thing on Earth anymore, that doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff to find.