"Fossil evidence of human evolutionary history is fragmentary and open to various interpretations." Henry Gee, Nature 2001
Like a favonian breeze, life arrived on Planet Earth about 3.5 billion years ago. Our storybegins much later, a brief two million years before present, during the waning days of the PlioceneEpoch, itself part of the 65-million-year-long Cenozoic Era. The primordial continent of Gondwanahas splintered into chunks and warm-blooded, furry mammals have replaced the dinosaurs. Theclimate is cooling and the growing glaciers have locked billions of gallons of Earth’s water into icyprisons. South America has moved to its present position contiguous to North America and the landbridge connecting Asia with Alaska still exists.If you telescope in, you’ll see we are in Africa.Before becoming the seed bed for man’s future, Africa separated from South America—almost200 million years ago—and then from India and Australia seventy million years later. Thecapacious tropical jungles created during hotter Miocene times have given way to dry savannasreaching like stretch lines around the Great Rift Valley. If you peer closer, you see a child. Half-ape,half-human, she peopled the landscape long before modern man arrived. She hunts, plays, eats andsleeps, oblivious to her destiny as the Father of Man. We’ll call her Lyta. That’s not her name,rather the sound she hears when her band requires her attention.For some reason scientists will probably never agree on, Lyta prospered in this cobbledconfluence of climate and geography. All we can do is study the cairns she left and ask why, out of all animal species, did she and her successors
survive Nature’s challenges and spread worldwide?