How long did human evolution take

The human being

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About eight to six million years ago a line of development of the great apes split up in Africa, from which on the one hand the chimpanzees and on the other hand the humans emerged. This African origin of mankind, which many naturalists had long suspected, has now been proven by genetic studies. Many kinds of pre-humans and humans lived in Africa; exactly how we are related to them is still unclear.

Reconstruction of a >> Neanderthal man from the Neanderthal Museum. Fig .: >> wikipedia commons, public domain

When Charles Darwin published “The Origin of Species” in 1859 (>> more), he was still reluctant to make explicit statements about human origins. But his followers such as the English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley and the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel did not shy away from saying it: Humans too are subject to evolution; Humans and great apes descend from common ancestors. In 1871 Charles Darwin also admitted to this position with his book "The Descent of Man" and assumed that the cradle of mankind was in Africa because our closest relatives live there. The anatomical similarities - the physique of the great apes, especially the chimpanzees, and that of humans are identical in every detail; Except for a few characteristics that make up humans - already in 1758 Carl von Linné had to classify humans in the zoological order of the primates in the 10th edition of his "Natursystem" (>> more). Linné's classification was based on the examination of a chimpanzee brought to England in 1698, which the English anatomist and doctor Edward Tyson had described; Tyson had listed the traits that were more like humans or more like other monkeys.

In doing so, these naturalists disregarded the representation in the Bible, according to which God created man in his own image and he was therefore separated from animals. It was brave to oppose this prevailing opinion: in 1619, the philosopher Lucilio Vanini was burned in Toulouse for saying that humans may have descended from apes. Where the church did not suppress such knowledge, Linnaeus' assessment was nothing new: a Portuguese missionary reported from West Africa at the beginning of the 17th century that the “pagans” there believed to be descended from the chimpanzee.

In the years after Darwin's publication, numerous fossil finds then proved the evolution of man (>> Background: Research into the history of man's development). With the discoveries, the picture of the ancestry of today's humans became somewhat clearer in the course of time; one must not forget, however, that it is ultimately based on a limited number of broken bones and hewn stones - plausible assumptions are based on these, but are not infrequently controversial; and new finds can change the picture again and again. The African ancestry of humans has recently been impressively proven by genetic studies: the genetic material of chimpanzees and humans is more than 98 percent identical to that of humans today, and the greatest diversity within humanity is found in Africa today (>> more ). With the help of molecular clocks (see also >> here) and the investigation of the spread of genetic changes, the fossil finds can now also be supplemented with temporal and spatial information, so that a detailed picture of the spread of humans across the earth can now be drawn.

The way to the people

From ape to pre-human

Great apes lived in Africa since the Miocene (>> more). They lived in the rainforests that covered large parts of Africa. With their long arms, great apes are ideally adapted to this habitat, in which they could swing and shimmy from tree to tree - like chimpanzees today. Associated with this were some important systems that could later be further developed on the way to becoming humans: Anyone who jumps from branch to branch needs good spatial vision and skillful hands - and both, but above all spatial vision, require a relatively large brain capacity. The fact that great apes, and primates in general, have a large brain for their body size is mainly explained by the fact that they live in more complex social groups than other mammals (“social brain hypothesis”). One of the arguments for this hypothesis is that the size of the cerebral cortex in primates increases with the size of the social group in which they live; a connection that is not found in other groups of animals. In turn, living in groups reduced the primate's risk of ending up as prey to predators.

During the Miocene, Africa moved north; as a result, the northern part of the continent moved away from the equator and the climate cooled. As a result, the rainforests there were pushed back and more open savannah landscapes expanded. At the same time, south of the Red Sea, the African plate began to break apart: the formation of the two-armed East African rift valley that surrounds the ancient Tanzania craton began (>> here). The central valley sank below sea level, the edges of the trenches were raised: This created mighty steep walls that were up to 2,700 m high ("Mau Escarpment" in Kenya). These mountains interrupted the westerly winds that had previously spread humid Atlantic air across Africa; now they rained down on the mountains. The area east of the mountains was in the rain shadow, and this reinforced the transformation of the former rainforests into tree savannah. Eight million years ago, Africa became even drier, as the increasing amounts of sand in the sediments off the coast of West Africa show - around this time the Sahara began to form. According to the results of the evaluation of the molecular clocks, it was at this time, six to eight million years ago, that our ancestors penetrated the tree savannahs and river landscapes that spread out on the edges of the shrinking rainforests. The branch in the “tree of life” was created, which led to modern humans (the other branch was to branch again later - one daughter branch led to the chimpanzees, the other to the bonobos).

What these ancestors looked like can only be speculated about. Most scientists suspect that they were chimpanzee-like: the chimpanzees have stayed true to the rainforest habitat and therefore probably would have changed less. However, some scientists also believe that these ancestors already walked upright and that the chimpanzees only returned to rainforest existence later. There is no fossil evidence for these assumptions, as fossils can hardly arise in the humid tropical forests. But through the finds from the six to seven million year old Sahelanthropus tchadensis (>> more), which may have already been walking upright, they get new topicality - otherwise the development of the upright gait would have to have been very fast (but this is quite possible). The finds of Orrorin tugenensis (According to studies of the hip bone, he too could have walked upright) and the Ardipithecus-Types show thatSahelanthropus by no means stood alone. The upright gait probably arose several times in the new living space independently of one another - the development towards human beings did not take place in one place, but was a pan-African phenomenon (as first suspected by the South African paleontologist Phillip Tobias).

The forerunners of humans presumably remained tree-dwellers who slept in nests in the trees; of 4.4 million years Ardipithecus ramidus for example, had hands with ape-like long finger joints, which is what tree-dwellers are known for. The pelvis and feet show, however, that the species (in spite of an opposing big toe, with which the feet were also ideally suited for grasping) stayed at least temporarily on the ground. What Ardipithecus may have drifted to the ground is controversial: some believe that walking upright was an advantage in more open landscapes - you could see further on two legs in the tall savannah grass when it was a matter of bridging the gaps between the trees (including straightening chimpanzees to get up to see better; also for defense and attack); others believe in other initial advantages, for example as a means of sex (erect males could offer potential partners ripe fruit as “payment” for sex; the males also showed their genitals upright) or better protection from solar radiation (>> more). However: The tree savannah as a habitat should also be conducive to brain development: Vegetable food is more difficult to find in a tree savannah than in the rainforest; above all, it was distributed more unevenly, so that one had to remember locations. But there was another, protein-rich source of food here: Meat - the tree savannah fed large herds of herbivores then as it does now. In order to be able to tap into the food sources of the tree savannah, however, one must be able to hike: Then one can go where food plants are ripe and can hope for meat from deceased herbivores (the pre-human beings in the group, like hyenas today, could also hope for others Predators compete for prey). When hiking, however, young animals were a hindrance - unless you could carry them in your arms. In this way, the upright gait probably opened up the best sources of food in the tree savannah, which thus became a pleasant living space: there was plenty of food; dangerous enemies rarely (and if necessary you could escape into trees).

Our ancestors? - The Australopithecines

The first pre-humans in the tree savannas were from the over 4 million years ago Australopithecines ("Southern Monkeys") have been replaced. The finds of Raymond Dart, Richard Broom, the Leakeys, Don Johanson and others (>> more) show that they lived in the west, north-east and south of Africa; here too there were several types: Australopithecus anamensis, A. afarensis, A. africanus, A. sediba, Paranthropus boisei, and possibly a few more. The Australopithecines, as the footprints of Laetoli show, were able to walk upright with certainty. For Charles Darwin, walking upright was the hallmark of man, he had “freed” his hands for the use of tools and weapons. But stone tools do not appear until 1.5 million years later in history, and therefore cannot have been the decisive advantage of walking upright - this was, it is believed today, rather the possibility of carrying children and being able to hike there, where food crops ripe or herds of animals moved to (see above). Australopithecus could also climb well - the long arms and curved fingers and toes prove this. Australopithecine teeth are more like humans than chimpanzees - small canine teeth suggest that they were hardly ever used as a weapon. Her brain was 380 to 450 cubic centimeters; hardly larger than that of today's chimpanzees. Judging by the teeth and the funnel-shaped chest (which allowed a large abdominal cavity necessary for predominantly herbivores), the australopithecines still mainly fed on plants; Meat seems to have been an occasional addition (as with most primates). The robust Australopithecines with large molars (Brooms genus Paranthropus robustus) are now considered to be an ultimately extinct special path that apparently specialized in fruit as food (similar to orangutans, which also have similar teeth). From which of the known - or possibly also from still unknown - “graceful” species man developed is still unknown; one of the candidates is considered to be the ancestor of the one discovered in 2008 in South Africa A. sediba (>> here).

The first people

2.5 million years ago, the increasing cooling at the end of the Pliocene led to the Pleistocene Ice Ages. In tropical Africa this meant: It was getting drier, the trees suffered and perished, and a bush and grass savannah formed. This savannah was less pleasant as a habitat than the earlier tree savannah: there were also large herds of herbivores here, but these also attracted lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs, which could also be dangerous to the australopithecines; and now there were no more trees to take refuge in. On the one hand, our ancestors survived in preferred regions where the tree savannah continued to exist - on the other hand, obviously also in places where, thanks to their intelligence and organizational skills, they were able to invent effective defense mechanisms. We don't know what the mechanisms were - but they survived; and these Australopithecine descendants evolved into the genus Homo, the human being. It first appeared in Africa a good 2.5 million years ago. The oldest finds of the first, simple stone tools, cuts with sharp edges (the Oldowan tools) are just as old. For a long time, the production of tools was considered to be the crucial difference between humans and great apes - only humans, it was thought, make tools, which represents a new level of planning and foresight. Ever since Jane Goodall (re) discovered in her observations of wild chimpanzees that they also make tools, and it was discovered that the Australopithecins probably already began to make tools, the use of tools alone is no longer a yardstick, brain size and anatomical features are also becoming considered. (Rediscovered because Charles Darwin reported it in “The Descent of Man”.)

The first stone tools of man apparently served primarily to eat. Fresh chips are as sharp as a steel blade, they could break open bones and nuts and cut meat and tubers. The new genus Homo already comprised at least two species 2.5 million years ago, Homo rudolfensis andHomo habilis. In a way, both stand between australopithecines and modern humans (which is why there are also researchers who prefer to use Australopithecus rudolfensis and A. habilis speak; also the demarcation between AH. rudolfensis andAH. habilis is controversial). At that time the climate in East Africa had become even more extreme; Fluctuations in the earth's axis caused sometimes dry, sometimes wet periods. The reason for the classification as human at the time was their production of stone tools, and the brain, which is 600 to 800 cubic centimeters in size compared to Australopithecus. Even if social life is considered to be the most important trigger of brain growth (>> more), the use of tools and brain development may also have strengthened each other: Animals capable of learning who skillfully used tools may have had advantages in terms of survival and reproduction in the changeable climate of the time , and so the ability to learn has become anchored in human genes. (Not directly, as assumed by Lamarck, but via the change in the selection pressure; a theory of the American psychologist James Mark Baldwin [“Baldwin Effect”]. In addition, one has to relate the size of the brain to the height - then the development falls a little less impressive than the pure volume values, but is still clear.)

Homo rudolfensis and H. habilis According to their teeth, ate more meat than the older austrolopithecines: Meat provided the energy and nutrients they needed to supply their larger brains. This connection is indeed characteristic of humans - in human relatives the brain grew over time, in great apes it did not.The diet with more meat had another consequence: Meat is rich in protein, it supplied mothers and small children with such protein that a high number of children was possible - human women can have ten or more children. This laid the foundation for human reproductive success, and reproductive success is the measure of fitness in evolution (>> here).

These cerebral species apparently coexisted with the smaller-brained australopithecines for a while. A new species appeared 1.9 million years ago: Homo erectus (“Upright man”) whose most famous find in Africa is the “boy from Turkana”. Homo erectus may not evolve A. afarensis or A. africanus, but from other, as yet unknown species that lived in the south and north of Africa. From there he must have immigrated to East Africa, which explains his sudden, seamless appearance in fossil history. Meanwhile is H. erectus has also been found in Morocco, Algeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa (early forms are sometimes called a separate species Homo ergaster viewed). The skeleton of the “Boy of Turkana” belonged to an 11 to 14 year old boy who was already 1.45 meters tall. When fully grown, H. erectus could be up to 1.80 meters tall, the proportions of its limbs roughly correspond to those of modern humans. The brain was 850 to 1,000 cubic centimeters in size. The more complex tools of Homo erectus also seem to be a consequence of the larger brain: In addition to simple knock-offs, hand axes worked on both sides were also used, which established the “Acheulean culture”. Hand axes, pear-shaped stones, the upper rounding is held by hand and whose sharpened narrow side served as, were to remain the distinguishing tool of man for over a million years. Making hand axes required planning and imagination; you had to be able to see things that didn't exist before. Many scientists suspect that H. erectus exceeded the limit that made the brain the most important human survival organ (>> more); and with H. erectus, the use of tools for the first time in the history of evolution led to a species that created its own ecological niche and thus was able to expand its geographic distribution enormously (see below).

Keep cool!

With the transition to the bush and grass savannah, the pre-humans had opened up a new habitat, where they found plenty of food, but also dealt with a new problem: the heat of the open African landscape. The brain is very sensitive to high temperatures, 40.5 degrees Celsius can be fatal. Savannah animals have a cooling system that consists of a “heat exchanger” on the brain and a “cooler” in the snout, which the chimpanzees living in the forest and probably also our common ancestors do not. There is even the theory that this is where the main advantage of walking upright lies: Animals standing upright expose a smaller part of their bodies to the hot midday sun; with this they could afford to lose their fur over time - only the hair remained on the head, it protects the brain from full solar radiation. Instead, "water cooling" prevailed via sweat glands, which is particularly effective on bare skin; and even more so when walking upright, which turns the body into the wind. One square meter of skin can emit 700 watts of heat, meaning that people are capable of physical activity even in African heat. There is no other animal that can run as persistently as humans in a warm climate; good runners can even catch up with horses after a few kilometers, as heat builds up in their bodies. The skin pigment was responsible for protecting the skin from ultraviolet solar radiation Melanin. The effective cooling of the body also made human brain growth possible in the first place, because the cooling system of savannah animals would not be able to cope with a larger brain.

However, “water cooling” has its price: During physical activity, people need several liters of water every day, which they can sweat out. Water is extremely important for people, under normal circumstances the water content of the body fluctuates at most by one percent, a loss of 5 percent can already cause permanent damage. A small human ancestor like “Lucy”, it was calculated, can therefore move no more than 11.5 kilometers from a known waterhole. Large, modern people have a more favorable surface / volume ratio, their radius is 25 kilometers, the collection area covered is almost 5 times as large - perhaps one of the factors that promoted our growth.

Homo erectus conquers the world

Homo erectus was a “model of success”: He lived on earth for over 1.5 million years, and it spread over half the world - the “Java man” discovered by Dubois and the “Peking man” belonged to Homo erectus, he came to Europe and was found in Georgia. The oldest finds from Java and Georgia are 1.8 million years old; H. erectus must therefore have emigrated for the first time soon after its creation (and before the invention of the hand ax) and finally reached what is now China and Southeast Asia. One can only speculate about what drove it: Did it reproduce so well that the groups became too large and subgroups had to look for new living spaces? Did you follow the large herds of animals on their wanderings? Or was there already something like “Wanderlust”? In any case, these early humans apparently initially kept to savannahs; in any case, the oldest finds are all in this biotope. The “robust” herbivorous australopithecins, however, died out about a million years ago.

The oldest finds of Homo erectus from southern Europe - from the Spanish Sierra de Atapuerca, sometimes as a separate species Homo antecessor interpreted - are about 800,000 years old; the oldest German find from Heidelberg (which some researchers also call their own, further developed species Homo heidelbergensis see, >> more) is 650,000 years old. This group may have come back from Africa because they used hand axes invented in Africa. At least now could Homo erectus / heidelbergensis at least survive outside of the tropical and subtropical climatic zones. That helped him Use of fire. Since when man has mastered fire is controversial (traces of fire can also be traced back to natural fires); and how Homo erectus learned to deal with fire, we can only guess. Bushfires were common in the savannah, and soon our ancestors will discover that the roasted meat of animals that perished in the fire was better than raw meat - much like the way hyenas pounce on charred carcasses today. Curious about what apes and humans are like, they must have experimented with the embers; To this day, we are still fascinated by cooking and lighting. And at some point Homo erectus had learned to maintain the fire systematically - most likely 1.5 million years ago, but at the latest 500,000 years ago the time had come. With the fire, roasted meat and plants, which are poisonous raw, became available to man; Fire kept wild animals away; grave sticks could be hardened with fire. Fire was so valuable that Homo erectus might have taken it with them on their migrations, as the Australian aborigines would later - and so it enabled the tropics to colonize cooler habitats.

Populated with fire Homo erectus also temperate forest steppes, where he continued to live on the large herbivores. Almost all sites in Europe that are older than 500,000 years belong to this biotope. 400,000 years ago it then also settled cool continental forest and meadow steppes; this is what the site of Schöningen near Helmstedt stands for. Wooden spears with tips hardened in fire were also found here: Man could also use them to kill large animals from a (relatively) safe distance; around this time, humans have certainly hunted and not only lived on dead animals. These hunters no longer lived exclusively in caves, but built huts out of twigs and grass. However, H. erectus never colonized the cold winter continental areas of northern Eurasia. Most of the Southeast Asian finds of Homo erectus also date from 450,000 to 300,000 years ago. About 300,000 years ago, Japan was probably settled via a land bridge - the Old World was thus fully populated by humans for the first time. The settlement of northern regions was limited to the warm phases between the ice ages.

Keyword: Stone Age

With Stone age refers to the period in human history before the manufacture and use of metals. The Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) began 2.5 million years ago with the first humans and ended 11,000 years ago with the beginning of the Neolithic (this includes the entire development of humans described on this page); The Paleolithic Age is characterized by various tools from the Oldowan, Acheuléen and Moustérien cultures such as simple cuts, hand ax, scrapers and burins, which were made by carving out stone. The Neolithic (Neolithic), on the other hand, is characterized by cut and polished stone tools; Since agriculture was invented at the same time, today it is often equated with the beginning of agriculture (>> more). In Central Europe, where agriculture began later, there will be another between the Old and Neolithic Mesolithic (Mesolithic) inserted; Typical for this time are small cuts (microliths), which were used as projectile points on spears, lances and arrows (see also >> Life in the Stone Age). The Stone Age ended 4,800 years ago (4,300 years ago in Central Europe) with the beginning of the Bronze Age (>> more).

Hunters in the Stone Age

The oldest finds of human bones are often found together with animal bones; And today these finds are no longer, as they used to be, evidence of hunting skills, but rather evidence that humans and other animals themselves became prey for leopards, lions and hyenas or other hunters. On average, people did not live to be older than 30 or 40 years. Other passages show that humans also - and even quite successfully - hunted themselves and thus more and more supplemented their other, predominantly collected food. Game must have been abundant: The development of vultures from eagle-like birds of prey shows that lions, hyenas and other hunters were not the limiting factor for herbivores, so that enough animals could still live on the remains (which modern research also suggests: Even today, more animals die on migrations in the Serengeti than from predators). What limited the number of hunters are probably the migrations of the herds: most predators cannot follow them. But humans, a good runner (see >> above), could do this. Presumably, the hunters also benefited from these running skills during the hunt themselves: They must have tried to isolate weakened animals from the herds and chase them to death or at least to exhaustion in order to then be able to kill them relatively safely.


Had about 900,000 years ago H. erectus made another leap in development: his brain was up to 1,200 cubic centimeters in size - these are the ones classified by some researchers as a separate species Homo antecessorand Homo heidelbergensis. This stage of development was also found in Africa (the “Rhodesian man” found in Kabwe, in present-day Zambia, in 1921), and the exact connections are still controversial. It seems, however, as if from this stage of development in Europe the Neanderthal, who was rightly recognized by Fuhlrott in 1856 as a pre-human Homo neanderthalensis (according to the molecular clocks 500,000 years ago, the oldest finds are 400,000 years old) as well as modern humans, Homo sapiens, in Africa (more on this on the next page). Both had a larger brain (around 1,350 cubic centimeters in Homo sapiens; slightly larger in Neanderthals). After more than a million years of slow development of hand axes, new forms of tools emerged: In the “Moustérien” there are elaborately prepared core stones shaped like a turtle shell, from which large and thin chips could be obtained, from which blades, points and scrapers were made. A third sideline may have arisen from the common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans, at least genetic studies of a find made in Siberia of a person living there 48,000 to 30,000 years ago suggest (“Denisova man”, >> more).

Distribution area of ​​the Neanderthals before the arrival of modern humans in Eurasia (250,000 to 45,000 years ago). Own illustration from National Geographic October 2008, Fig.Rise and Fall of Neanderthals (page 51).

The Neanderthals lived in Europe and the Middle East for at least 400,000 years; They reached their greatest distribution in the period 250,000 to 45,000 years ago. To the east, their range reached almost to what is now Mongolia (see figure above). They were perfectly adapted to the cold climate of the Ice Ages and had a robust skeleton, similar to today's arctic hunters like Inuit, Sami and Siberians. This is considered to be cold adaptation - the ratio between skin area and body volume is reduced. In fact, the Neanderthals also lived in the cold, treeless steppe that lay between the ice masses in the north and the Alpine glaciers during the Ice Ages. Despite all adaptations to the cold: This would not have been possible without the controlled use of fire and clothing made of fur, because the winters were much colder than today. To compensate for this, the steppes and grasslands of Central Europe fed large herds of herbivores through vigorous growth in the short, warm summer: mammoths in huge herds, bison, woolly rhinos, reindeer, wild horses and giant deer promised skillful hunters rich prey. And the Neanderthals were skilled hunters and carnivores. With their better cuts, they produced more finely differentiated tools than Homo erectus. Blades and knives were probably attached to the spears with birch pitch and animal tendons. However, numerous broken bones in the Neanderthal finds show that hunting remained dangerous for these hunters too - large animals can always defend themselves effectively. And the Ice Ages had another advantage: In shady areas, frost soils and snow remained or lay for a long time, as they do today in the high mountains - and so meat supplies could be “frozen”, which may have helped the Neanderthals to survive the long, cold winter. (But the Neanderthals did not live on meat alone either: in spring they threw themselves on the clutch of migratory birds - the Easter eggs may be a reminder of this custom - in autumn they harvested berries, which the bears also use to stock up on fat eat into hibernation.)

A Neanderthal hyoid bone found in Israel in 1983 also shows that they could make sounds; a finding that genetic studies confirm: Neanderthals have a variant of the “language gene” FOXP2. Also the language (>> more) was ultimately made possible by walking upright: This allowed the pharynx to enlarge, the larynx to move downwards and vocal cords to develop. Whether the Neanderthals already mastered grammatical structures cannot be read from them or from their genes. But there are signs of ritual burial among the Neanderthals: What ideas about life and death do you think led to their emergence? Obviously a new quality of consciousness arose during the development of the human being, and this new quality lies in the brain (>> background).

Why did the Neanderthals die out? >> More on the topic on the modern man page.

More about the Neanderthals: Pages of the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn on the Neandertaler, >>

Previous page: >> Overview of the human being

Next Pages:
>> Background: What makes people special - brain and language
>> Modern man - Homo sapiens
>> Hunters and gatherers and their environment

© Jürgen Paeger 2006 - 2012

Elsewhere, the exact opposite was believed: in many regions great apes were considered people who had fallen out of favor.

The family bush of humanity: The numerous fossil finds since the first find in the Neandertal (>> more) prove the evolution of humans, but many relationships between the finds are still unclear. It is only clear that sometimes several species of prehistoric humans came together, so our prehistory is more of a bush with many branches than a straight line of descent.

The discussion about theDifferentiation between Australopithecus and Homo can be explained because the separation only happened in retrospect: Over time, the individuals of Australopithecus developed in a direction that was eventually defined as the new genus Homo.

“Intermediate stages”, which must have existed, are not provided for in the zoological system; and so finds are assigned to one genus by one, and to the other by others - and this uncertainty is basically proof of evolution.

Melanin protects the skin from the radiation of the sun, and is also the cause of the skin color. However, a minimum amount of sun is necessary so that the body can produce vitamin D, which is why people at higher latitudes are often fair-skinned. But the connection is not easy: Inuit, for example, tend to be dark because ice and snow reflect light and they absorb a lot of vitamin D through their food.

The color of the skin has repeatedly been misused for racist judgments. Racists should bear in mind, however: Chimpanzees are light-skinned under their smooth-haired fur, only the face is dark. An “Aryan” is more like a chimpanzee than dark-skinned, curly-haired people.

In any case, the genetic differences within the whole of humanity are no greater than those between chimpanzees from a single forest area in Central Africa; genetically we are all Africans (a few of whom have recently been in exile). The time of separation was at most enough to change a few external characteristics such as hair, skin and eye color, nothing more: Those who still hold racist views today are either stupid or malicious.

Of course, there is no such thing as a “language gene”: FOXP2 is sometimes called that because people with impaired FOXP2 find it difficult to learn to speak. FOXP2 is a "transcription factor" that regulates other genes. Without this factor, some nerve cells in the brain do not seem to function properly. The gene is found in all vertebrates and is very similar in all of them, but differs in humans and chimpanzees - so researchers believe it may have played a role in the evolution of language.