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HOMO SAPIENS

HOMO SAPIENS

EACH VILLAGE IS A

EACH VILLAGE IS A MICROCOSM THAT TENDS TO REPRODUCE THE MACROCOSM OF ALL MANKIND, ALBEIT A BIT DIFFERENT IN PROPORTIONS LUIGI LUCA CAVALLI SFORZA Map of H.Sapiens migration through time based on genetic data analisys Homo Sapiens. The great history of human diversity is an international exhibition, conceived entirely in Italy, dedicated to the ambitious interdisciplinary research project founded, among others, by the Italian geneticist, professor emeritus at Stanford University, Luigi Luca Cavalli Sforza, who for decades has probed the most hidden recesses of the depths of the history of human diversity, uniting molecules, fossils, cultures and languages in a coherent overall framework of evidence. Today for the first time, an international group of scientists has begun to connect the paths of ancient history that led our species to leave a small valley in Ethiopia less than 200,000 years ago to colonize the whole planet, region after region, spreading to form a wide variety of peoples and different cultures. This exhibition tells where we came from and how we managed, migration by migration, to populate the entire planet, constructing a kaleidoscopic mosaic of current human diversity. MANY OTHER HISTORIES BEFORE THE “HISTORY”: WE WERE NOT ALONE What happened in that long and mysterious period of time between the birth of our genus Homo in Africa and that of the human history written with a capital ‘H’ that we study in school? Where did the many populations whose successors are living in every region of the Earth come from? We, as a human species, have only been on this planet for a very short time. If an extraterrestrial anthropologist had come down to Earth a few thousand years before the construction of the Egyptian pyramids, he would have come across at least five species of the Homo genus: our ancestors of the Homo sapiens species spread all over the world, along with the robust and intelligent Neanderthals in Europe and Asia, to perhaps another species of Homo discovered in 2010 in southern Siberia, to the later form of the species Homo erectus that survived in the valleys on Java, and the small hobbits (Homo floresiensis) who lived on the island of Flores in Indonesia: another surprising and very recent cousin of modern man, discovered in 2004 – small pygmylike humans with a brain no bigger than a chimpanzee’s, but possessing the same advanced technology as Homo sapiens. Yet not long afterward, modern man would remain as the only specimen of humanity on Earth at the end of a process of diversification of the various species of the genus Homo that had begun two million years earlier: a process that had produced the first completely biped exemplars of Homo, such as the charming little boy of the Turkana, then followed by a series of “out of Africa” expansions, with sites inhabited by ancient species of the genus Homo in Georgia, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Spain and throughout the “old world”. We descend from a history of walkers and small tribes that expanded their territories to survive. Not only that, but we are the products of six million years of hominid diversification, adaptations, innovations and explorations of different biogeographical areas, of a variety of bipedal forms (two of which already walked on the volcanic ash at the Laetoli site 3.5 million years ago!) that inspired the paleoanthropologist Tim White to use the metaphor of the intergalactic bar, borrowed from Star Wars. In the end, however, after a long period of prehistoric encounters of different types (perhaps with some hybri-

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