The video below makes an important point about human evolution, but Joe Hanson, the host and writer, simply can’t escape the trap of Eurocentrism and White Supremacy in how he illustrates his narrative. Notice the appearance of the “human” ancestors depicted in the slides. At 1:01 minutes into the video we encounter “Mesolithic Man,” an ancestor who lived approximately 20,000 years ago. He is depicted as “white” with long hair, and clearly is intended to serve as the prototypical modern human. Moving further along the timeline, at 1:05 minutes we encounter “Paleolithic Man,” a human ancestor that lived approximately 200,000 years ago. Note that he is yet another “white” male with light straight hair, and light eyes. Is it possible our earliest human ancestors possessed such phenotypic (outward physical) characteristics?
Any scientist who has not succumbed to the flat-earth theory that modern humans evolved separately in different regions around the world (so-called polygenesis), recognizes that modern humans originated on the African continent and from there populated the globe. The vast majority of geneticists and physical anthropologists thus believe in the monogenesis of modern humans according to evidence from DNA studies and the fossil record in Africa. Scientists also agree our modern human ancestors were dark-skinned by virtue of the environment in which they evolved. Apparently Hanson didn’t get the memo, nor did his art director.
But wait … Hanson is hardly done. When we arrive at 1:13 minutes into the presentation we encounter a 1.5 million year old ancestor, Homo Erectus, who Hanson describes as “not the human,” and who is depicted as a dark-skinned individual.
Do you get it? The human ancestral line is depicted as “white,” while the prehuman line is depicted as “black.” Traditionally, the graphic images used to illustrate the human evolutionary line slavishly follow this same pattern. Observe this familiar example:
African ancestors in the human ancestral line invariably are depicted as pre- or sub-human. The implication being that human beings didn’t become “human” until they left the African continent. In other words, humans aren’t truly “human” unless they are “white” European and male.
Hanson didn’t have to fall into this trap. Richard Neave, one of Britain’s leading forensic scientists, created the clay sculpture shown below using fossilized fragments of skull and jawbone found in a cave in Romania in 2002. The remains are believed to be 35,000 years old based on carbon-dating. This individual lived in Europe at a time when there were only two known species to inhabit the region: Modern humans and Neanderthals. But his ancestors eventually prevailed in Europe, as the Neanderthal population declined and gradually disappeared from the human landscape.
Back in the 1970s I began doing a series of lectures titled: “Human Evolution from an African Origin and Perspective.” In my presentation I pointed out that the notion of humanity’s origins in Africa is not a recent one (Darwin suggested as much in 1859), but that the problem we have is a failure to view our common heritage from an African perspective. Why do we need an African perspective? Because people like Hanson fail to recognize and consider the central role of Africa in human development.