Origins: the birthplace of humankind

Science points to our common African origins, the place where life as we know it began. According to the fossil record, the first humans evolved in the region that we now know as Ethiopia, about 200,000 years. In tracing our own origins back to these earlier times, we are able to discover ourselves and our greater human family.

Mother Africa connects us all.

Visual Glimpses of Our Origins

Out of Africa: the first diaspora

Humans eventually left Africa to discover different parts of the world, populating other continents and developing new civilizations. This was the original African diaspora. Yet even as people dispersed around the globe, historians and archeologists have discovered parallels in art and technology across all five continents.

The famous Venus figurines demonstrate this synchronicity. Figurines such as the Tan Tan Venus and the Venus of Willendorf were found around the world at roughly the same period of human development. Such discoveries remind us that we are all connected, and share a common origin. Each of us is a traveler, scattered far from our ancestral home.

Homo sapiens idaltu, the species that immediately preceded our own.
160,000 years old
Upper Herto Member, Bouri Peninsula, Middle Awash, Ethiopia
Housed in National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.
Photo ©2001 David L. Brill / Brill Atlanta

Professor Tim White

Tim D. White led the team of fossil hunters that discovered three important skulls in the Middle Awash region of Ethiopia. After six years of analysis, White and his team of confirmed that these human remains are about 160,000 years old and offer evidence of the earliest ancestors of modern humans. They bolster the theory that modern humans emerged in Africa and are not related to Neanderthals, who lived in Europe.

On June 18, 2003, Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air interviewed Tim White, one week after the announcement that remains of the earliest modern humans were found in Ethiopia.



Tim White and the Human Evolution Research Center at the University of Berkeley were important contributors to the creation of The Original African Diaspora exhibit.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross is produced in Philadelphia by WHYY-FM and broadcast nationally by NPR. The Peabody-Award-winning show is one of public radio’s most popular programs. Learn more at NPR.


Bovid (Antelope) tibia shaft which has been shattered, smashed, and marked with stone tools. The earliest documented percussion marks made by hominids who presumably used tools to extract the fatty marrow from bones.
2.5 million years before present
Bouri, Afar Depression, Northeastern Ethiopia
This site has yielded the earliest evidence of meat eating by hominids.
Housed in National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.

Explore Your Origins

What does your history and genealogy contain? Learn more about your African-American ancestry with past records and research data.