Human Origins and Early Migration

Misliya cave and excavation site

Misliya cave and excavation site
Photos by Mina Weinstein-Evron/University of Haifa

Where do we come from? Scientists believe all humans come from a common ancestral background in East Africa around 250,000 years ago. Waves of movement from this region began shortly after the emergence of our species.

Through genetic, archaeological, linguistic, and cultural evidence, scientists piece together our understanding of human origins and early migrations out of and within Africa. For example, the Human and Neanderthal Genome Projects can provide insight into how our ancestors moved and interacted in the world.

Where humans originate is only one part of our complex migration story. Although we share a common ancestor, it does not mean we all share the same journey. Some communities have lived continuously in the same area for thousands of years. Their traditional stories describe their ancestors’ origins in these places. Other people live in places where they or their ancestors have arrived more recently.

In this section, resources will explore how anthropological evidence helps provide insight on our common ancestral background, initial migration out of Africa, and the peopling of other continents.


The Journey of Your Past | National Geographic

This ancient DNA revolution is unlocking just how interconnected we are


From Lucy to language front cover

From Lucy to Language

Donald C. Johanson and Blake Edgar

front cover of A short history of humanity : a new history of old Europe

A Short History of Humanity: A New History of Old Europe

Johannes Krause (Author), Thomas Trappe (Author), Caroline Waight (Translator)

Other Resources

Podcasts and Playlists

Here and Back Again: Foundings, Spreads, and Cycles – A Story of Us Podcast

Conversation With Dr. Mark Hubbe and Selin Nugent – A Story of Us Podcast

Websites / Other

Global Human Journey – National Geographic

News Articles

Mapping Human and Neanderthal Genomes – Sapiens

Earliest Human Remains Outside Africa Were Just Discovered in Israel – Smithsonian Magazine

Ancient DNA Charts Native Americans’ Journeys to Asia Thousands of Years Ago – Smithsonian Magazine