What Happened Before History? Human Origins

What Happened Before History? Human Origins

The world we live in feels normal, ordinary. It feels like this is just how humans exist and always existed. But, it’s not. Never before have we humans lived in a world as sophisticated and engineered to our needs as today. Giving us the luxury to forget about ourselves and not worry about survival. Food, shelter, security – all of this is, more or less, taken for granted. But we’re a special few; for more than 99.99% of human history, life was completely different. And there’s no such thing as just one human history. Our story begins 6 million years ago, when the tribe of hominini split and our relationship with the apes ended. 2.8 million years ago, the genus of homo, the first humans, emerged. We like to think about ourselves as the only humans, but this is far from the truth. When we, homo sapiens sapiens, came into existence 200,000 years ago, there were at least six other human species around. Cousins of comparable intelligence and ability, which must have been incredibly scary, kind of like living with aliens. Some of them were very successful. Homo erectus, for example, survived for 2 million years. Ten times longer than modern humans have existed. The last of the other humans disappeared around 10,000 years ago. We don’t know what caused them to die out. Modern humans have at least a few percent of neanderthal and other human DNA, so there was some mixing, but certainly not enough to be a merger between species. So we don’t know if our cousins went away because they lost the battle over resources, or because of a series of minor genocides. Either way, only we remain. Back to the beginnings of humanity. 2.8 million years ago, early humans used tools, but did not make a lot of progress for nearly 2 million years. Until they learned to control fire. Fire meant cooking, which made food more nutritious, which contributed to the development of our brain. It also produced light and warmth, which made days longer and winters less gruesome. On top of that, it not only scared predators away, it could also be used for hunting. A torched wood or grassland provided small animals, nuts and tubers that were pre-roasted. From 300,000 years ago, most of the different human species lived in small hunter-gatherer societies. They had fire, wood and stone tools, planned for the future, buried their dead, and had cultures of their own. But most importantly, they spoke to each other. Probably in a kind of proto-language, less complex than ours. If we had a time machine, how far would we be able to go back, steal a few babies and raise them today without anyone noticing that they’re a bit different? There is much debate. Anatomically, modern humans emerged 200,000 years ago, but probably 70,000 years is as far as we could travel back and still snatch a behaviourally modern human. Before that, the babies would probably lack a few crucial gene mutations Necessary to build a brain with modern language and abstract thinking abilities. At some point, around 50,000 years ago, there was an explosion in innovation. Tools and weapons became more sophisticated and culture became more complex, because at this point, humans had a multi-purpose brain, and a more advanced language to communicate information with each other effectively, and down to the last detail. This allowed much closer cooperation, and is what really makes us different from any other creature on Earth. Not our comparatively weak bodies and inferior senses, but the ability to cooperate flexibly in large groups, unlike, for example, rigid beehives or intimate, but tiny wolf packs. As our brain evolved, we became able to do something, life had been unable to do up to this point. One – expand knowledge quickly. Two – preserve the knowledge gained over generations. Three – build on past knowledge, to gain even deeper insight. This seems daft, but until then, information had to be passed on from generation to generation, mostly through genetics, which is not efficient. Still, for the next 40,000 years, human life remained more or less the same. There was little to build upon. Our ancestors were only one animal among many. Building a skyscraper without knowing what a house is… is hard. But while it is easy to be arrogant in our attitude to our ancestors, this would be ignorant. Humans 50,000 years ago were survival specialists. They had a detailed mental map of their territory, their senses were fine-tuned to the environment, they knew and memorized a great amount of information about plants and animals. They could make complicated tools that required years of careful training and very fine motor skills Their bodies compared to our athletes today just because of their daily routines, and they lived a rich social life within their tribe Survival required so many skills that the average brain volume of early modern humans might even have been bigger than it is today As a group we know more today, but as individuals our ancestors were superior to us But then around 12,000 years ago, in multiple locations, humans developed agriculture. Everything changed very quickly. Before, survival as a hunter and forager required superb physical and mental abilities in all fields from everybody With the rise of the agricultural age, individuals could increasingly rely on the skills of others for survival. This meant that some of them could specialize. Maybe they worked on better tools, maybe they took time to breed more resistant crops or better livestock, Maybe they started inventing things. As farming got more and more efficient, what we call civilization began Agriculture gave us a reliable and predictable food source, which allowed humans to hoard food on a large scale for the first time, which is much easier to do with grains than meat, The food stock required protection, which led to communities living together in tighter spaces First, early defense structures were built, the need for organization grew The more organized we got, the faster things became efficient Villages became cities, cities became kingdoms, kingdoms became empires Connections between humans exploded which led to opportunities to exchange knowledge Progress became exponential About 500 years ago the Scientific Revolution began Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, Biology, and Chemistry transformed everything we thought we knew The Industrial Revolution followed soon after laying the foundation for the modern world As our overall efficiency grew exponentially, more people could spend their lifetime contributing to the progress of humanity Revolutions kept happening. The invention of the computer, its evolution into a medium we all use on a daily basis, and the rise of the Internet shaped our world It’s hard to grasp how fast all of that happened It’s been about 125,000 generations since the emergence of the first human species About 7,500 generations since the physiologically modern humans saw the light of day 500 generations ago, what we call civilization began 20 generations ago, we learned how to do science And the Internet became available to most people only one generation ago Today we live in the most prosperous age humanity has ever experienced We have transformed this planet, from the composition of its atmosphere to large-scale changes in its landscape and also in terms of the other animals in existence. We light up the night with artificial stars and put people in a metal box in the sky Some have even walked on our Moon We put robots on other planets We’ve looked deep into the past of the universe with mechanical eyes Our knowledge and our way of acquiring and storing more of it has exploded The average high school student today knows more about the universe than a scholar a few centuries ago Humans dominate this planet, even if our rule is very fragile We are still not that different from our ancestors 70,000 years ago But your lifestyle has existed for less than 0.001% of human history From here on, there’s no saying what the future holds for us We’re building a skyscraper, but we’re not sure if it’s standing on a solid foundation or if we’re building it on quicksand Let’s leave it with that for now The next time you miss your train, your burger is not hot enough, or someone cuts in line Remember how special this made-up human world is Maybe it’s not worth being upset about all those little things. This video was supported by audible.com/nutshell In the making of it, we used the book “Sapiens: a brief history of humankind” as one of the major sources. If you want to get to it, or any other for free and support us, go to audible.com/nutshell and get a free 30-day trial It’s so hard to read books when you have the internet, so we can at least listen to them In general, we listen to a lot of audiobooks while designing our videos, so we can highly recommend audible OK, so this was our first take on making a history-related video we’d love to make much more of them, but they take even more time than our average video. So we might do 3 or 4 a year. Your feedback’s very welcome here Thank you so much for watching,
and if you want to support us directly, you can do so on Patreon. It really helps us out. While you think about it, here are more videos, if you need more distraction.


  1. Instead of just getting sponsored by audible, you guys should really consider making some audio books, I'd PAY to listen to them on my while going to bed or while on the bus to school

  2. And then about 300 years ago, with all of our modern free time we invented religion. It was the concept that there is a creator greater than yourself but yet you are still part of it. Today we call it Social Media.

  3. Kurzgesagt: We don't know what the future holds.
    Also Kurtgesagt: Def blimps with a lower level with whale sanctuaries.

  4. Just had a co worker ask me to explain why monkeys are still around if they all eventually evolve into humans!
    Asked me very indignantly, like she was shattering the whole concept of evolution with that question.
    I told her that primates (not just monkeys) are like cousins of humans. Distance ancestors.
    For a visual I told her that a house cat doesn't evolve into a lion! But they are both felines.

  5. Hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution involving our ansestors surviving through great hardship and daily struggles just to get food and this has all led to me laying on my bed eating cheetos and watching youtube.

  6. Супер интересное видео! Хотя информация данная в нём не нова. Молодцы! Умеете, магёте, зае*ись, чётко!

  7. Tecnicamente, então , existe magia no processo da evolução e a mesma funciona . Seres evoluídos conseguem por em prática a magia diferente de outros atrasados que obedecem e nasceram apenas para isso e sua ignorância os fazem rir apenas, porque são incapazes de pensar a um nível mais complexo .

  8. Puts grila soldado. O Eu Superior está certo ainda , até hoje , e os insights também estão voltando com uma força e raiva que eu vou foder essas instituições de brinquedos , coisa inútil . Isso não é digno de existir nunca mais .

  9. This is such an amazing video I watched it multiple times to fully grasp it.
    However there is a part that if fails, the part where you mention "The babies would prob. lack a few crucial gene mutations necessary to build a brain with modern language and abstract thinking abilities." based on my fields of studies, it broke my heart to hear this, because it is a HUGE claim without scientific backup. That deserves a whole video of itself with a lot of research on for example key "features" of the modern human brain that really distinguishes us from other beings. Language has two aspects, allowing us to communicate and hence join forces, and associate thoughts to words and meanings, kinda reminds me of word2vec. And abstract thinking is sooo general that it basically does not make sense. What does it mean ? imagination ? planning ? math ?
    And, What if they just did not have the drive to do the things that we do but they had the mental capacity for it, just like a failing student who is actually very talented but just in the wrong system and environment which has no interested to them. Your videos are clearly based on so much work and research and when I watch them I let my brain trust and learn from you, I hope to be helpful with my comment and not annoying hehe because I want to make sure my brain feeder (you!) is not giving me false assumptions mixed with scientific facts. Love.

  10. Hey to you dear kruzgesagt! I've been loving and supporting you alot of time now, and I am currently reading Yuval Noah's books. Just wanted to say thanks for lighting up my day withevery single video you make. Please never stop, I admire you guys.

  11. After 3k years human will say: people before 20th was monkey but after thay learn how to use electric and technology thay become human ) just a theory so many people will believe

  12. “‘Verily, I am going to place mankind generations after generations on earth.’ They said: ‘Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, while we glorify You with praises and thanks and sanctify You.’ God said: ‘I know that which you do not know.’” (Quran 2:30)

    “And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: ‘I am going to create a human (Adam) from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud. So when I have fashioned him and breathed into him (his) soul created by Me, then you fall down prostrate to him.” (Quran 38:71-72)

    “He taught Adam all the names of everything.” (Quran 2:31)

    “‘tell me the names of these if you are truthful.’ They answered ‘Glory be to You, we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Verily it is You the All Knower, the All Wise.’” (Quran 2:31-32)

    God turned to Adam and said:

    “‘O Adam! Inform them of their names,’ and when he had informed them of their names, He said: Did I not tell you that I know the unseen in the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and what you have been hiding?” (Quran 2:33)

    7 Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.-Genesis 2:4-3:24
    19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.-Genesis 2:4-3:24


    The mind is free to think,

    so it is not a slave,

    so it is not a slave to physics,

    so it is not physical,

    so intelligence, being mental, is not physical either,

    which means that genes, being physical, have absolutely no bearing on intelligence,

    which means that the racist story that we come from subhuman proto-blacks, is a lie, since that atheist myth hinges on the notion that a species can become smarter or dumber.

    PS This video is Satan's SHEISSE. 🙂

  14. If we are all the same human species why tf does racism even exist.. if there were another human species around right now I wouldn’t mind showing them who’s dominant 😂

  15. And they choose neglect the actual topic of the video… Humans didn't just "pop" into existence, where's the transition, and from what? What genetic change allowed humans the ability to speak and when? What is the transition species… Something FAR more complex entwined itself to us to bring "man" from shit slinging knuckle draggers to atomic space faring beings.

    No, it's NOT aliens. It could just be that we've ALWAYS been here and this isn't the first iteration of civilization, just resilient enough to survive cataclysm after cataclysm. If anything, it explains why monkeys have not gone through the evolutionary stages as implied by humans and why they're still in the same stasis as they were millions of years ago. Whereas science tells us that humans went through a rapid paced evolution within tens of thousands of years?

    That's why science is getting questioned more and more each day, they're no better than those who still think the earth is flat (fucking amazing that THAT is a thing).

  16. Actually, humans have always been around. You forgot to include the part where there were magic wishing trees. Humans will always be around. It's just that they may not always have been or will be on Earth. Imagine if we lived on Mars and actually came here because Mars was destroyed by us?? Lol all theories aside this was an interesting video.

  17. Ok, but that end moral was something to take with everyone. No more whining!! I walked away feeling thankful for where I am.

  18. "maybe it's not worth being so upset about these little things".
    yes very much easier said than done.
    working in retail and also worked in restaurants I can easily say that people from everywhere, doesn't matter ethnicity, income or background.. people feel entitled to things and when they don't get their way, or the smallest thing upsets them, people will be very upset over the little things.
    just something I've noticed though.

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