What Happened Before History? Human Origins


The world we live in feels normal, ordinary. It feels like this is just how humans exist and always existed. But, it’s not. Never before have we humans lived in a world as sophisticated and engineered to our needs as today. Giving us the luxury to forget about ourselves and not worry about survival. Food, shelter, security – all of this is, more or less, taken for granted. But we’re a special few; for more than 99.99% of human history, life was completely different. And there’s no such thing as just one human history. Our story begins 6 million years ago, when the tribe of hominini split and our relationship with the apes ended. 2.8 million years ago, the genus of homo, the first humans, emerged. We like to think about ourselves as the only humans, but this is far from the truth. When we, homo sapiens sapiens, came into existence 200,000 years ago, there were at least six other human species around. Cousins of comparable intelligence and ability, which must have been incredibly scary, kind of like living with aliens. Some of them were very successful. Homo erectus, for example, survived for 2 million years. Ten times longer than modern humans have existed. The last of the other humans disappeared around 10,000 years ago. We don’t know what caused them to die out. Modern humans have at least a few percent of neanderthal and other human DNA, so there was some mixing, but certainly not enough to be a merger between species. So we don’t know if our cousins went away because they lost the battle over resources, or because of a series of minor genocides. Either way, only we remain. Back to the beginnings of humanity. 2.8 million years ago, early humans used tools, but did not make a lot of progress for nearly 2 million years. Until they learned to control fire. Fire meant cooking, which made food more nutritious, which contributed to the development of our brain. It also produced light and warmth, which made days longer and winters less gruesome. On top of that, it not only scared predators away, it could also be used for hunting. A torched wood or grassland provided small animals, nuts and tubers that were pre-roasted. From 300,000 years ago, most of the different human species lived in small hunter-gatherer societies. They had fire, wood and stone tools, planned for the future, buried their dead, and had cultures of their own. But most importantly, they spoke to each other. Probably in a kind of proto-language, less complex than ours. If we had a time machine, how far would we be able to go back, steal a few babies and raise them today without anyone noticing that they’re a bit different? There is much debate. Anatomically, modern humans emerged 200,000 years ago, but probably 70,000 years is as far as we could travel back and still snatch a behaviourally modern human. Before that, the babies would probably lack a few crucial gene mutations Necessary to build a brain with modern language and abstract thinking abilities. At some point, around 50,000 years ago, there was an explosion in innovation. Tools and weapons became more sophisticated and culture became more complex, because at this point, humans had a multi-purpose brain, and a more advanced language to communicate information with each other effectively, and down to the last detail. This allowed much closer cooperation, and is what really makes us different from any other creature on Earth. Not our comparatively weak bodies and inferior senses, but the ability to cooperate flexibly in large groups, unlike, for example, rigid beehives or intimate, but tiny wolf packs. As our brain evolved, we became able to do something, life had been unable to do up to this point. One – expand knowledge quickly. Two – preserve the knowledge gained over generations. Three – build on past knowledge, to gain even deeper insight. This seems daft, but until then, information had to be passed on from generation to generation, mostly through genetics, which is not efficient. Still, for the next 40,000 years, human life remained more or less the same. There was little to build upon. Our ancestors were only one animal among many. Building a skyscraper without knowing what a house is… is hard. But while it is easy to be arrogant in our attitude to our ancestors, this would be ignorant. Humans 50,000 years ago were survival specialists. They had a detailed mental map of their territory, their senses were fine-tuned to the environment, they knew and memorized a great amount of information about plants and animals. They could make complicated tools that required years of careful training and very fine motor skills Their bodies compared to our athletes today just because of their daily routines, and they lived a rich social life within their tribe Survival required so many skills that the average brain volume of early modern humans might even have been bigger than it is today As a group we know more today, but as individuals our ancestors were superior to us But then around 12,000 years ago, in multiple locations, humans developed agriculture. Everything changed very quickly. Before, survival as a hunter and forager required superb physical and mental abilities in all fields from everybody With the rise of the agricultural age, individuals could increasingly rely on the skills of others for survival. This meant that some of them could specialize. Maybe they worked on better tools, maybe they took time to breed more resistant crops or better livestock, Maybe they started inventing things. As farming got more and more efficient, what we call civilization began Agriculture gave us a reliable and predictable food source, which allowed humans to hoard food on a large scale for the first time, which is much easier to do with grains than meat, The food stock required protection, which led to communities living together in tighter spaces First, early defense structures were built, the need for organization grew The more organized we got, the faster things became efficient Villages became cities, cities became kingdoms, kingdoms became empires Connections between humans exploded which led to opportunities to exchange knowledge Progress became exponential About 500 years ago the Scientific Revolution began Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, Biology, and Chemistry transformed everything we thought we knew The Industrial Revolution followed soon after laying the foundation for the modern world As our overall efficiency grew exponentially, more people could spend their lifetime contributing to the progress of humanity Revolutions kept happening. The invention of the computer, its evolution into a medium we all use on a daily basis, and the rise of the Internet shaped our world It’s hard to grasp how fast all of that happened It’s been about 125,000 generations since the emergence of the first human species About 7,500 generations since the physiologically modern humans saw the light of day 500 generations ago, what we call civilization began 20 generations ago, we learned how to do science And the Internet became available to most people only one generation ago Today we live in the most prosperous age humanity has ever experienced We have transformed this planet, from the composition of its atmosphere to large-scale changes in its landscape and also in terms of the other animals in existence. We light up the night with artificial stars and put people in a metal box in the sky Some have even walked on our Moon We put robots on other planets We’ve looked deep into the past of the universe with mechanical eyes Our knowledge and our way of acquiring and storing more of it has exploded The average high school student today knows more about the universe than a scholar a few centuries ago Humans dominate this planet, even if our rule is very fragile We are still not that different from our ancestors 70,000 years ago But your lifestyle has existed for less than 0.001% of human history From here on, there’s no saying what the future holds for us We’re building a skyscraper, but we’re not sure if it’s standing on a solid foundation or if we’re building it on quicksand Let’s leave it with that for now The next time you miss your train, your burger is not hot enough, or someone cuts in line Remember how special this made-up human world is Maybe it’s not worth being upset about all those little things. This video was supported by audible.com/nutshell In the making of it, we used the book “Sapiens: a brief history of humankind” as one of the major sources. If you want to get to it, or any other for free and support us, go to audible.com/nutshell and get a free 30-day trial It’s so hard to read books when you have the internet, so we can at least listen to them In general, we listen to a lot of audiobooks while designing our videos, so we can highly recommend audible OK, so this was our first take on making a history-related video we’d love to make much more of them, but they take even more time than our average video. So we might do 3 or 4 a year. Your feedback’s very welcome here Thank you so much for watching,
and if you want to support us directly, you can do so on Patreon. It really helps us out. While you think about it, here are more videos, if you need more distraction.

100 thoughts on “What Happened Before History? Human Origins

  1. All the anti religion here is appalling … Do none of you big brain folks wonder how a book so old could have so many acuate scientific predictions . even tho the authors had little to no scientific understanding .. This singular fact should lend great creedence , or at the very least warrent investigation .

  2. How do people find out things? Like, how did the first person to find milk think: I’m going to pull this thing on a cow and if drink the liquid that comes out even though I don’t know what it is

  3. i have a theory human in blank of these tens of thousand of years have actually have been civilzation likes our an more advance and ended with war , and repeating cycle if you look at human record you Find similar weponary described that are almost same to our techenelogy.

  4. I love how you're answering philosophical questions with science, definitely appropriate. How do you know that abstraction and symbolic abilities are in the brain?

  5. Cooking food does not make it more nutritious, it removes some nutrients. It kills parasites and germs, making it safer to eat. It can also help preserve it longer. 2:14

  6. Omg, that message at the end about not getting mad about the little things was so cringe, out of place, and nearly ruined the video.

  7. A thing i allways wonder is: But why havent any animals that have existed as long as humans, become nearly intelligent as humans? 🤔

    Or am i wrong? Would be interested to know.

  8. Kurzgesagt: "Remember how special this made-up human world is. Maybe it's not worth getting upset about those little things."
    Also Kurzgesagt: "This video was supported by aud-"
    Me: screams in anger

  9. humans:evolved for several billions of years
    anti vax moms:I have proof that vaxinating your kid is bad 1 artical that prooves vaxination is bad while there are 9,000,000 articals that supports vax

  10. Great video. If I could go back in time, I wouldn't want to see how far back I could go. I would just go to the exact moment in time when man stopped being kind and shift a grain of sand to reverse it.

  11. Late reply but…

    So basically at one point our early ancestors were living among other sentient races (distant but still pretty close cousins) like something out of a fantasy world, pretty neat to think about actually! And with many humans alive today having trace amounts of DNA from these long dead races, confirming interbreeding among the races and even producing seemingly viable hybrids too, also like something out of fantasy setting that allows for mixing of various races. (like half-elves, half-orcs, half-halflings, and etc.)

    I think that's just a neat concept and I've always liked the idea of such settings with multiple cultures and races interacting and intermingling, seems like a world rich with story potentials!

  12. Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time to tell ancestors about the bright future of humanity and tell them that they are the basis for so much they couldn't even define it

  13. If you fear death by nuclear bomb more than that by a tiger, guess what, this is the best time of your life. Still scared of the bomb🙁, don't worry, lighten up with a soda and a burger just round the corner.

  14. You create a great videos. Love the way you animate them and the way you share knowledge in brief manner. Wish to learn animation like you but got no time…..😅😅

  15. Dunno about you, but I've never thought "This feels normal, this must be how humans always were"
    .. Every single day feels unnatural to me, lol.

  16. We are only as smart as nature "god" wants us to be. When we create a wheel or build a building with elevators we think thats an amazing achievement, but a creature with a more advance brain may just see our achievements like how we look at the achievements of a beehive or a birds nest.

  17. I have never heard ANY theories about what was BEFORE the big bang theory. What caused it? WHO caused it? HOW was it caused? What created the elements that caused the big bang?

  18. This is the only relatively happy kurzgesagt video. All of them are sad, worrying and talk about the environment falling apart.

  19. My interpretation of the book Spaiens was that the author Harari Yuval Noah was not merely talking about our advanced ability to communicate (a lot of human like beings had pretty good communication) but also that we developed a drive for believing and unite through —> stories <— Mostly made up ones.

    Thanks for the video.

  20. I wonder after 2 or 300 yrs later,the future kids will think of us as just stupid people who cannot even understand the cure for cancer.(If we survive)

  21. Information passed on through genetics is very fucking efficient. Just the thought that you have in your head about it is proof that it is very fucking efficient. It is THE most efficient and the fact that I am here to state this opinion…. is proof that information passed through genetics is amazingly efficient. The pillars of our existence.

  22. I believe the first human to communicate was Heimskr " Let me tell you something friend, Cyrodiil is a long way from here, and here, in Skyrim, we will never forsake mighty Talos"

  23. The Big Bang is history there is nothing before big bang so nothing is before history cuz time didn't exist till the big bang BiG BrAiN

  24. I disagree with these theories of human evolution! Especially when anyone trying to put a time table on something that is impossible to measure. Like signs of intelligence, we can only speculate from the time we discovered or first evidence of writing. But a person who's intelligent enough would know that not all artifacts/ technology from past humans wouldn't survive thousands and millions of years before being discovered. We've lost more than we've found!

  25. I see no reason to view Neanderthals and the such as being a separate species.
    They are human beings and there is evidence that we were capable of reproducing with them, we are all the same species.

  26. If I was alive I feel like I would somehow manage burn a forest down using this new invention called uh “FIYER”

  27. Soo basically

    Humans: hits a ting dies
    God: HAH
    Humans: makes a thing and kills anoother thing
    God: HAH
    Humans: makes a house
    Angel: sir these humans are getting pretty advanced
    God: LETS JUST WAIT
    Humans: makes a working society
    Angel: mr god these humans are getting VERY VERY advanced
    God: let’s just wait for them to find out
    Humans: modern age
    Angel: SIIR-
    God: JUST WAIT!!!!!!!!
    Humans: find out the meaning of the universe
    God: ok let’s kill em

    meteor time

  28. Only two ways we originated unless of course your a lunatic and believe some god created everything…1.We originated from another plant or 2. A group of gorrilas/monkeys came across a field of mushrooms and ate then which in turn opened a part the brain that had never been awake..

  29. My younger nephew somehow does not get bored to this when I watch it on the big screen. Must be the colorful animations. I just wish he'll refrain from asking questions while we watch.

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