Timeline of Human Ancestry, Evolution and Cultural Development

Years ago

Historical event

GEOLOGICAL EVOLUTION

14,700,000,000

formation of universe and laws of physics

4,500,000,000

formation of earth

3,800,000,000

first recorded life on Earth, single-celled Prokaryotes like cyanobacteria

1,500,000,000

first eukaryotic cells, sexual reproduction with meiosis and recombination

670,000,000

first Metazoa: worms and jellyfish

550,000,000

first chordates (late Cambrian period), filter-feeding proto-vertebrates

500,000,000

first vertebrates (Ordovician period), jawless predatory Conodonts

200,000,000

first mammals (late Triassic period), fur and endothermy

65,000,000

dinosaur extinctions, Tertiary radiation of mammals (late Cretaceous period)

40,000,000

first prosimian primates (Eocene period), brachiation

36,000,000

first monkeys (early Oligocene period), colour vision, opposable thumb, social

25,000,000

first apes (early Miocene period), enlarged brain

4,500,000

first hominids (Australopithecus spp) in Africa, bipedal, larger brain

2,500,000

start of Quaternary ice-age, first stone tools (Ethiopia)

2,000,000

first human (Homo habilis) in Africa, hand axes

1,500,000

replacement of Homo habilis by H. erectus, probable use of speech

1,400,000

extinction of Australopithecus

1,000,000

migrations of H. erectus to Europe and Asia from Africa, even 1.8 mya?

300,000

archaic Homo sapiens in Africa, use of fire, huts, burials

130,000

Neanderthals (H. sapiens neanderthalis) in Europe and Asia. Out of Africa?

90,000

Cro-magnons (H. sapiens sapiens), first modern man. Out of Africa?

40,000

Use of bone fipple flute (recorder) by Neanderthals

34,000

Neanderthals replaced by Cro-magnons in Europe. Bone tools, full language

CULTURAL EVOLUTION

1. Hunter gatherer nomads

32,400

earliest cave paintings of Cro-magnons (Chauvet caves at Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, France)

30,000

latest record of Homo erectus (from Asia)

28,000

earliest representational art: sculptured 'Venus of Willendorf' (Austria)

15,000

Mongoloids colonise North America from Asia over Bering land bridge, or from Europe by boat 17,000ya?

14,000

domestication of dogs (China)

12,000

extinction of woolly mammoths (America and Europe), due to climate and man

11,000

domestication of sheep (Iraq)

10,000

domestication of goats (Iran), and pigs (Thailand)

10,000

continental ice-sheets withdraw from Europe and North America

2. Agricultural farming and settlements

9,500

cultivation of wheat and barley (Mesopotamia = modern Iraq)

9,500

first town: Jericho, Palestine, walled city of population 2500

8,000

first hand pottery, and spinning and weaving (Mesopotamia)

7,550

flooding of Black Sea from Mediterranean (the biblical flood of Noah's Ark)

7,500

cultivation of millet and rice (China)

7,000

world population of humans passes 5 million

7,000

domestication of cattle (Iran)

6,350

domestication of horses (Ukraine)

5,500

first use of wheel (Mesopotamia), → transport and pottery

5,400

first use of number system: decimals (Egypt)

5,100

beginning of Old Kingdom (Egypt), urban Sumer civilisation (Mesopotamia)

5,000

first written words: hieroglyphics (Egypt), cuneiform (Mesopotamia)

4,800

first writing on papyrus (paper)

4,700

first monuments: pyramids (Egypt)

4,000

invention of ice-cream (China)

4,000

start of bronze age (Europe), first metallic money

3,800

first records of contraception

3,800

beginning of Shang dynasty (China), Babylonian civilisation (Mesopotamia)

3,500

first alphabet (North Semitic, Palestine and Syria)

3,200

sea-going trade: in dyes (Phoenicians, Mediterranean)

3,000

world population of humans passes 50 million

3,000

cultivation of maize (America) now with wheat and rice world's chief grain crop

2,950

first Jewish temple (Jerusalem), King Solomon and rise of Judaism

2,800

first Olympic games (Greece)

2,700

start of iron age (Europe)

2,600

peak of Greek civilisation: democracy, laws, poetry, drama, philosophy

2,500

rise of Buddhism (India), Confucianism (China)

2,300

Euclidean geometry postulated (Greece)

2,200

Great Wall of China (1,900 km)

2,200

invention of architectural arch, invention of accurate calendar (Egypt)

2,000

rise of Roman Empire (Europe), beginnings of Christianity

1,900

use of abacus by Romans

1,700

use of magnetic compass (China)

1,400

rise of Islam (Arabia)

1,200

first block printing (China)

1,000

invention of astronomical clock (China), invention of porcelain (China)

1,000

first explosive (China), gunpowder

670

Black Death bacillus carried by rats, half population dies across much of Europe, 1347-51

620

birth of Renaissance (Italy), rise of individuality, imagination, innovation

550

first moveable-type printing (Europe)

520

reformation (break-up of universal Christian world into sects)

520

exploration of Americas and India by Europeans

470

theory of earth revolving around sun (Copernicus, Poland, 1543)

360

world population of humans passes 500 million

330

discovery of laws of gravity (Newton, UK, Principia 1687), birth of modern physics

320

rapid colonisation of Americas and India by Europeans

280

cataloguing of organisms by genera and species (Linnaeus, Sweden, Systema Naturae 1735)

250

invention of steam engine (Watt, Scotland, 1769), → powered machinery

240

independence of North American colonies, → economic super state of USA

230

spread of Republicanism (French Revolution 1789)

3. Industrial Revolution

215

factory production of textiles, and iron and steel (starts in UK)

190

first railway (Stephenson, UK, 1825)

180

plans for first analytical engine (Babbage, UK, 1830s), → computer (1930s)

160

theory of evolution by natural selection (Darwin, UK, Origin of Species 1859)

155

first internal-combustion engines (Germany), → automobile (Benz, 1885)

140

invention of telephone (Bell, USA, 1876), electric light bulb (Edison, USA, 1879)

125

centralised sewage treatment plants (UK and USA), preventing spread of diseases

105

First World War (1914 -18), 32 nations participate, 20 million killed

100

Russian Revolution and first communist state (1917)

90

isolation of first antibiotic: penicillin (Fleming, UK, 1928)

80

beginnings of television broadcasting (1930s)

80

Second World War (1939-45), 55 million killed

70

first use of atomic bomb (130,000 killed outright in Hiroshima, 6/8/1945)

70

invention of transistor (USA, 1947), → integrated circuit, microprocessor (1970s), consumer electronics

65

genocide becomes a crime under international law 1951, after 6 million Jews killed in Holocaust

4. Technological Revolution

64

chemical structure of DNA worked out (Crick & Watson, UK, 1953)

60

first orbiting space satellite (Sputnik 1, USSR, 4/10/1957)

57

first astronaut in space (Gagarin in Vostok 1, USSR, 12/4/1961)

48

first astronaut on moon (Armstrong in Apollo 11, USA, 20/7/1969)

36

first diagnosis of AIDS (1981); identification of the virus (1984)

34

creation of Internet (1983) → instant information transfer world-wide from early 1990s

33

discovery of man-induced hole in ozone layer (1984)

32

genetic engineering enters agriculture; patents for plants (1985), animals (1987)

31

world population of humans passes 5000 million (1986)

21

first cloned sheep (Roslin Institute, Edinburgh UK, 1996)

20

first robotic rover lands on Mars and transmits measurements of its surface composition (Sojourner, 4/7/1997)

17

publication of draft sequence of the human genome: ~25,000 genes in 3 billion base pairs (Nature 15/2/2001)

8

three of nine safe operating boundaries for humanity have been overstepped, in climate change, biodiversity loss, and the nitrogen cycle (Science 24/9/2009)

7

creation of first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell (Science 20/5/2010)

5

first human-made object escapes Solar System and enters interstellar space (Voyager-1, 25/8/2012)

C. Patrick Doncaster,  25 October 2017