For a long time, scientists have tried to find the exact time during which homo sapiens started roaming the earth. Archaeological evidence has given us various clues, but finding an exact date is an extremely arduous task. So, we can only make guesses as to the time frame during which the anatomically-modern human first set its foot in this world. Here are 10 genuine proofs that show humans existed more than 5,000 years ago.
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1. Mummified remains of humans from Chinchorro culture have been found in Atacama desert in northern Chile. They are about 7,000 years old and are considered to be the oldest mummies discovered.
The word “mummy” usually makes us think of Egyptian mummies. But humans started mummifying their dead even before the Egyptian culture. The oldest known human mummy is from Chinchorro culture. It dates from 5050 BCE which makes it about 7,000 years old.
So far, 282 Chinchorro mummies have been discovered in Chile, South America. At least 29% of these mummies were formed naturally as the soil and aridity of the Atacama Desert naturally preserved the corpses creating natural mummies. The rest of the mummies have been created by the Chinchorro people by removing the soft tissues and organs and stuffing the body with vegetables.(1,2,3)
2. Monte Verde, an archaeological site in Chile, shows evidence of primitive settlements, bonfires, stone tools, hunting equipment, seeds, and potatoes along with some animal remains dating from around 16,500 BCE.
Monte Verde in Chile was discovered in late 1975 when severe erosion exposed a strange “cow bone” in the area. Later, it was proved that the bone belonged to an extinct animal which roamed the Earth about 1.6 to 12 million years ago. This discovery initiated the excavation of Monte Verde.
During the excavation, two distinct levels were found: Monte Verde Level I (MV-I) and Monte Verde Level II (MV-II). Carbon dating has proved that MV-II was occupied by humans from about 12,800 – 11,800 BCE. A group of twenty to thirty prehistoric humans lived there in a twenty-foot-long, tent-like structure. Archaeologists have discovered fossilized feces of humans at the site. Also, a footprint, probably of a child, some stone tools, and ropes and cords have been discovered. A specimen of a13,000-year-old potato has also been found at the site.(1,2)
3. Discovered in 1991, Ötzi the Iceman is an exquisitely preserved 5,300-year-old natural mummy of a human found in a European glacier.
On 19 September 1991, two German tourists discovered a body frozen in ice in the Ötztal Alps. Believing it to be the body of a deceased mountaineer, they reported it. After extraction, it was examined by archaeologist Konrad Spindler of the University of Innsbruck. He dated it to be “about four thousand years old.” Later, a more precise dating method proved that the man lived between 3359 and 3105 BCE. This five-thousand-year-old mummy is Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy.(source)
4. Bones of a stone age child and an adult have been found in a small cave in Ireland. Radiocarbon dating revealed the bones to be 5,500 years old.
In November 2013, IT Sligo archaeology graduate Thorsten Kahlert was investigating some caves on the slopes of Knocknarea in Ireland. While surveying. he found a human foot-bone in one of the caves’ floor. On further examination, thirteen small bones and bone fragments were discovered in the almost inaccessible cave. Three bones belonged to a child, and the rest belonged to an adult. After examination, it was found that the adult died about 300 years ago, but the bones of child revealed that it died about 5,200 years ago.(1,2,3)
5. In April 2017, a 5,000-year-old human skeleton was uncovered in a neolithic site in Malaysia.
While constructing a gallery in Guar Kepah in 2017, a construction worker suddenly uncovered a human bone. Since the site was already known as a neolithic site, archaeologists were called and the construction work was halted. The site was already excavated back in 2010, and prehistoric shells, tools, pottery, and food were found. But at that time, no skeleton was discovered.
6. A set of fossilized footprints known as “Eve’s footprints” has been discovered in Africa. It belongs to a female human who lived approximately 117,000 years ago.
In 1995, three footprints were discovered on the shore of Langebaan Lagoon, South Africa by geologist David Roberts. The footprints were found on a ledge of sandstone. They were made on a steep sand dune during a turbulent rainstorm. Later, the wet footprints were filled by dry sand and crushed sea shell which blew over them. The sand and sea shells hardened like cement over the footprints and protected them. They were eventually buried at the depth of about 30 feet. The footprints are believed to be of a female human and were created approximately 117,000 years ago.(source)
7. The Lascaux Cave in France is filled with over 600 parietal wall paintings created by prehistoric humans around 17,000 years BCE.
The Lascaux Cave was discovered on September 12, 1940, by a teenager who entered it along with his three friends. After entering, they saw that the cave walls were covered with prehistoric paintings. The paintings are primarily of large animals and fauna of the Upper Paleolithic period. The interior walls and ceilings of the cave are filled with more than 600 such paintings which were created by many generations of prehistoric humans. There is an ongoing debate regarding the time of the creation of these paintings, but it is estimated to be around 15,000 BCE.(1,2)
8. Skara Brae, one of the best preserved Neolithic village, consists of eight clustered huts which were occupied by prehistoric humans from roughly 3180 BCE to about 2500 BCE.
Skara Brae is one of Europe’s most complete Neolithic villages which was uncovered during a storm in 1850. The village was comprised of eight huts which were occupied by humans about 5,000 years ago. Each hut measured 40 square meters and contained a stone hearth used for cooking and heating. About 50 people lived in the village.
In Skara Brae, archaeologists have found carved stone balls and a number of other artifacts made of animals, birds, fishes, whale bones, and walrus ivory. Lumps of red ocher have also been found which indicates that the people living here used body painting. In 1972, excavations revealed a Neolithic rope and a wooden handle.(source)
9. Newgrange, the Neolithic monument in Ireland, built around 3200 BCE, contains burnt and unburnt human bones in the chamber inside it indicating human cremation.
At 8 kilometers outside of Drogheda, Ireland lies a structure built about 5,200 years ago, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. This prehistoric monument is known as “Newgrange.” It is a large circular mound inside which are passageways and chambers made of stone. A number of large stones of Newgrange are covered in megalithic art.
The original purpose of Newgrange is a mystery yet to be solved. But many archaeologists believe that it has religious significance and may have been used a place of worship, or it may have been the place for an astronomically-based faith rituals. One of the most interesting features of this structure is its entrance which was created such that it aligns with the rising sun during the winter solstice. The sunlight enters through an opening above the doorway and lights up the inner chamber for 17 minutes. The precision with which the roof box is made indicates the ingenuity and precise calculation of people in that period.(source)
10. Pech Merle, a French cave, contains prehistoric paintings of woolly mammoths, horses, reindeer, and even some human handprints. Some of these murals are about 27,000 years old.
On the hillside of Cabrerets, France exists a cave called “Pech Merle” covered with paintings of Gravettian culture (some 25,000 years BCE) proving that humans existed even 25,000 years ago. The cave has seven chambers filled with paintings of prehistoric fauna. There are life-like images of spotted horses, woolly mammoths, bovids, reindeer, and single-color horses. Paintings of human and handprints also adorn these walls. Archaeologists have also found footprints of children in clay.
According to experts, the cave was used as a shelter by the prehistoric people during the Ice Age. At some point in the past, the entrance of the cave got covered by sliding earth forming an airtight seal which preserved the interior.(1,2)