How Old is Mankind?

Homo erectus © National Museum of Indonesia
Homo erectus © National Museum of Indonesia

The question of how old mankind truly is, remains unanswered to this day.  Is it seven thousand years old, two-hundred thousand, two million, a billion?

There are several versions. Let us examine a few of them.

Young Homo sapiens (200-340 thousand years old)

If we were to look at Home sapiens, meaning “intelligent human”, we would be observing a rather young human species. According to official studies, it is no more than 200 000 years old. Such a conclusion was reached after a careful study of the mitochondrial DNA and the famous skulls from Ethiopia.

The last of the skulls was discovered in 1997 during excavations near the Ethiopian village of Herto. The find consisted of remains of a man and a child, whose age is no less than 160 000 years. Today, these remains are the oldest “intelligent humans” we know of. Scientists have given them the name – Homo sapiens idaltu – or, “the oldest intelligent human”.

The mother of all modern-day humans – the Mitochondrial Eve – was living in Africa around the same time, or perhaps a little earlier (200 000 years ago).  Every human living today possesses the same mitochondria (set of genes, passed on only through the maternal line). However, this does not mean that she was the first woman on Earth. It only means that precisely her descendants have had the best luck in the evolutionary race.

In fact, “Adam”, whose Y-chromosome is now inherent in every male, is younger than “Eve”. It is believed that he lived about 140 000 years ago. Actually, all of these facts are not quite exact and conclusive. Science bases its knowledge only on what is in our possession, but most of the representatives of Homo sapiens have not yet been discovered.

Adam’s age was studied once again and that could add 140 000 more years to the age of mankind. Genetic analysis of one African American and 11 more residents of the village of Cameroon, established the existence of a “much older” Y-chromosome, which was passed on by a man who lived about 340 000 years ago.

Homo is 2.5 Million Years Old

The intelligent human is a young species, but the Homo genus (the origin of the intelligent human) is much older. What about the predecessors of Homo – Australopithecus, who were the first to stand on their own two feet and use fire.

But if Australopithecus had too many similar traits to monkeys, the oldest representatives of the Homo genus – Homo habilis (the skilled man) resembled humans. A skull (from the species), along with bones of a saber-tooth tiger, were discovered in 1960 in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.

It’s possible that the owner of the skull was a victim of the predator. Later, it was determined that the remains belonged to a young man who lived 2.5 million years ago. His brain was more massive than that of a typical Australopithecus, the pelvis allowed for a more free use of the two legs, and the legs were adapted for an upright movement.

With time, the sensational find was complemented with an equally sensational discovery – Homo habilis built his own tools of labor and carefully picked the exact material needed, searching for it far away from home. This was determined because all of the tools were made with quartz, which did not exist near the place of residence of the first humans.

Homo habilis was the creator of the first Olduvai archeological culture, which was the beginning of the Paleolithic era (the Stone Age).

Scientific Creationism

As is known, the theory of evolution is criticized and not completely proven. Its main competitor was and still is creationism, according to which, every living thing on Earth, as well as the whole world itself, was created by a High Intelligence, Creator, or God.

Scientific creationism also exists, and its followers point to scientific confirmations for what has been written in the Book of Genesis.  They discard the chain of evolution and claim that there were no previous units, but rather, all living things on earth were created as they are.

And for a long time, all creatures used to live together – humans, dinosaurs, and mammals. Up until the Great Flood anyway, which left traces that can be seen to this day – and those traces would be the Grand Canyon in America, dinosaur bones, and other fossils. Believers of Creationism do not share the same opinions about the age of mankind and the world, even though they base their opinions only on the first 3 chapters of the Book of Genesis.

The so called young-Earth Creationism reads them literally and insists that God created the whole world in the matter of 6 days, about 7 500 years ago. Followers of “old-Earth Creationism” believe that God’s actions cannot be measured with human measurements. When one says “one day” creation, it could be understood as one earthly day, but in fact it could be millions, even billions of years’ time.