Who was the first ever person alive?

Determining who the first ever person alive on Earth is a fascinating question that has intrigued humans across centuries. With advancements in science and archeology, we are getting closer to uncovering the identity of the first human. Though we may never know for certain who the very first person was, we can examine evidence to hypothesize who some of the earliest humans could have been.

When did the first humans appear?

To determine the potential identity of the first human, we first need to establish a timeframe for when the earliest humans walked the Earth. Currently, most scientists believe that anatomically modern humans, or homo sapiens, emerged in Africa around 300,000 years ago. This estimation is based on fossil and archaeological evidence of early humans discovered across Africa.

Some major findings that support this timeframe include:

  • Fossils found in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco dating back approximately 300,000 years ago.
  • Omo remains in Ethiopia dating to around 195,000 years ago.
  • Herto fossils from Ethiopia dating to 160,000 years ago.

Additionally, genetic evidence suggests that all modern humans originated from a small population in Africa around 200,000 years ago. So based on current archaeological and genetic evidence, most researchers believe the first humans emerged somewhere between 300,000-200,000 years ago in Africa.

Where did the first humans live?

The continent of Africa is the most agreed upon location for where the first humans evolved. However, pinpointing a precise location is difficult with the limited evidence available. Here are some of the major theories about where the first human civilizations may have originated within Africa:

  • East Africa: Many of the oldest human fossil remains have been found in Eastern Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Important finds like the Omo and Herto fossils provide evidence that some of the earliest humans lived in this region.
  • South Africa: South Africa has yielded fossils and tools dating back over 260,000 years. The Border Cave and Klasies River Caves have been important South African sites showing early human activity.
  • North Africa: Sites like Jebel Irhoud in Morocco and other North African caves contain fossils and stone tools indicating humans lived in this area beginning around 300,000 years ago.
  • Central Africa: While fewer ancient human settlements have been found in Central Africa thus far, it remains a possible region for early humans. Areas like the Democratic Republic of Congo may hold clues to first humans.

Though East Africa has the clearest signs of early humans so far, the vast continent of Africa provides ample regions humans could have originated from. As more archaeological discoveries unfold, our picture of where the first humans lived will become clearer.

How did the first humans live and behave?

To envision what daily life was like for the first humans, we can look at artifacts and sites that provide clues into their behavior and capabilities. Here are some key characteristics of early humans:

  • Hunter-gatherers: Evidence shows early humans were hunter-gatherers, foraging for plants, fishing, and hunting small to medium animals. This allowed them to live in small, nomadic groups.
  • Stone tools: Humans made and used stone tools, like primitive axes, knives, and spears. Advanced tools provided the ability to hunt, cut, scrape, and perform other tasks.
  • Fire usage: Early humans harnessed the ability to create and use fire, which allowed cooking food and keeping warm.
  • Animal hide clothing: Animal skin clothing provided protection and warmth for humans’ naked bodies.
  • Art and jewelry: Ornamental objects like jewelry, drawings, and ochre pigment kits imply creative expression and symbolic thinking.

With these capabilities, humans adapted to their environments and migrated when needed to follow food sources. They lived in small, nomadic bands and relied on each other for survival. Likely challenges included encountering dangerous animals, acquiring enough food, and dealing with extreme weather.

What did the first humans look like?

Genetic studies indicate that anatomically the first humans looked quite similar to modern humans. Here are some of the key physical characteristics:

  • Bipedalism: Early humans walked upright on two legs, freeing the hands for tool use.
  • Larger brains: Increased brain size (around 1000 cc) compared to earlier hominids provided higher cognition.
  • Smaller teeth and jaws: With the rise of cooking food, teeth and jaws evolved to be smaller than previous hominids.
  • Protruding nose: Evidence suggests a narrow and protruding nose compared to flatter faces of earlier species.
  • Modern-proportioned skeletons: Early humans had modern-proportioned skeletons, allowing efficient bipedal locomotion.

Overall, early humans likely looked quite similar to us in basic anatomical structure. However, there was greater physical diversity than modern times, since humans lived in isolated, scattered groups.

Were there multiple first humans or just one?

It is highly unlikely one individual first human spawned the entire human race. The rise of homo sapiens would have occurred gradually over thousands of years as a population. However, the numbers involved were likely still very small during the origin times.

Genetic bottlenecks refer to periods where the human population shrank dramatically. These bottlenecks were likely common for early humans due to factors like:

  • Natural disasters – volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis
  • Disease outbreaks
  • Famine
  • Environmental changes

The Toba supervolcanic eruption around 75,000 years ago is one example of an event that may have reduced early humans to just a few thousand individuals. However, humans survived and rebounded from these bottlenecks over time.

So in summary, there would have been a population of first humans gradually evolving, subject to periods of shrinkage to tiny numbers. Overall diversity and numbers grew over hundreds of thousands of years.

Will we ever know who the very first humans were?

Unfortunately, we will likely never be able to definitively identify the very first homo sapiens individuals. Since they lived hundreds of millennia ago, there are no records or histories from this time.

The oldest human remains we have found are around 300,000 years old. But DNA degrades over time, making it unlikely we will recover full genomic data from fossils this ancient to pinpoint specific people.

However, we can continue to speculate and uncover clues by:

  • Finding more ancient fossil remains
  • Advancing analysis techniques of existing specimens
  • Comparing more genetic data from humans around the world
  • Computer modelling the emergence of early humans

Through these approaches, we may gradually uncover more evidence bringing us closer to the origins of our species. But the full picture will likely remain elusive.

Could “mitochondrial eve” be the first woman?

“Mitochondrial eve” refers to the woman who is believed to be the most recent common matrilineal ancestor of all living humans today. By tracing mitochondrial DNA passed down from mother to child, scientists have identified an ancestral “eve” from which we all descend.

Research indicates mitochondrial eve likely lived between 150,000-200,000 years ago in Africa. She was certainly not the first female human, as she had her own mother and other ancestors. However, she does represent the farthest back matrilineal ancestor identified so far.

Some key facts about mitochondrial eve:

  • She was one of thousands of humans alive at the time, not the only living woman.
  • She lived much later than the estimated first humans around 300,000 years ago.
  • The title refers to her as most recent common ancestor, not first ever woman.
  • Men also have a common patrilineal ancestor dubbed “Y-chromosomal Adam.”

So while mitochondrial eve provides intriguing evidence into early human migration and ancestry, she should not be considered the absolute first woman or only living female of her time.

What languages did the first humans speak?

Linguists have long debated the origins of human language and the languages spoken by our earliest ancestors. Unfortunately, language does not fossilize like bones do, making it difficult to have direct evidence.

However, based on anatomical changes required for speech, it is assumed language likely emerged when homo sapiens did around 200,000 years ago. The most widely accepted theories hypothesize the first languages were:

  • Click languages: Simple click consonants used by hunter-gatherers such as the San people in Africa.
  • Gestural language: Hand gestures and facial expressions to communicate before vocal language developed.
  • Proto-World language: Theoretical single ancestral tongue that later diversified into all world languages.

Since humans left Africa around 100,000 years ago and populated the rest of the world, languages differentiated and changed dramatically. Today over 7,000 languages exist, making it challenging to trace so far back.

We may never fully know what languages the first people spoke, but we can look for common roots among the world’s linguistic diversity today.

How many human species co-existed with early humans?

Homo sapiens shared the planet with a number of other human species over the course of history. Here are some of the key species known to have co-existed with and interbred with early modern humans:

Species Timeframe
Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals) 300,000 – 40,000 years ago
Homo denisova 150,000–39,000 years ago
Homo erectus 2 million to 143,000 years ago
Homo floresiensis 100,000 to 60,000 years ago
Homo heidelbergensis 700,000 to 300,000 years ago
Homo naledi 335,000 to 236,000 years ago

Genetic evidence shows modern humans interbred with Neanderthals, Denisovans, and perhaps other species. However, only we homo sapiens survived to the present day. Interactions with other human species would have influenced development of tools, culture, migration patterns, and immunity.

How many humans were on Earth 10,000 years ago?

Estimates vary, but most researchers believe the global human population around 10,000 years ago right before the rise of agriculture was between 1-15 million people.

Some factors that influenced the population size then compared to earlier eras include:

  • Climate changes leading to more abundant food sources
  • Settlement in permanent villages and communities
  • Development of food storage and preservation techniques
  • Beginnings of animal and plant domestication
  • Improvements in hunting, fishing, and foraging tools

So while far below today’s population of 7 billion, the human population was steadily growing approaching the Agricultural Revolution around 10,000-8,000 years ago.

That revolution marked a major turning point for early humans, providing increased food supply to support larger group sizes. The development of farming then paved the way for cities, civilizations, and accelerated growth.


Identifying the very first human who walked the Earth will likely never be possible due to the immense gaps in records and fossils. However, ongoing research continues to provide fascinating clues into the emergence of our earliest homo sapien ancestors several hundred thousand years ago and how they lived. By synthesizing evidence from fossil records, archaeology, genetics, and more, we can speculate when, where and how our species arose in Africa and gradually spread across the ancient world.

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