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How Long Have Humans Been on Earth?

Earth. Credit: NASA

Earth. Credit: NASA

Humans have spread across the entire planet, colonizing every corner. But humans have really been on the planet for a fraction of the lifetime of the Earth. Archeologists estimate that modern humans have been on the Earth for about 200,000 years.

Humans are a member of a species of bipedal primates in the family Hominidae. You, me and everyone on Earth is a homo sapiens. This is Latin for the term, “wise human”. As humans, we have a highly developed brain, a bipedal gait, and opposable thumbs.

It’s believed that humans originated about 200,000 years ago in the Middle Paleolithic period in southern Africa. By 70,000 years ago, humans migrated out of Africa and began colonizing the entire planet. They spread to Eurasia and Oceania 40,000 years ago, and reached the Americas by 14,500 years ago.

One of the oldest sites of human settlement is located at Middle Awash in Ethiopia, where humans lived 160,000 years ago.


Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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