Ancient Human Migrations

Scientific understanding of the human journey out of Africa is always changing. In the past, scientists explored this story through the paleontological record of skeletons and human artifacts. Recently genetics has offered new insights into the story of human migration. Breakthroughs in technology allow for further understanding, but at the same time there are those that warn us to be careful in how we interpret what we find. Some people point to the history of Eugenics, as a warning about the way that human biases, including deep racism, shaped scientific findings and public understanding.  There are others, who argue that these new insights into the story of human migration provide further evidence that dividing human beings into racial groups is not a productive way to understand the differences between us since they uncover many similarities between many people across racial groups. Indeed, we all share both genetics and a long history of migration.

This animated video from researchers at the University of Hawaii represents their understanding of the current science documenting the spread of humans across the globe.

Reflection Questions and Teaching Suggestions

After watching the video, consider using the Project Zero, See-Feel-Think-Wonder Thinking Routine.

Using this routine will help develop students’ habits to inquire about the ways migration has shaped the world while promoting learners dispositions to:

  • Feel curious and connected to the larger human story of migration
  • Ask relevant and informed questions
  • Gather, weigh and reason with evidence
  • Manage complex ideas, contexts, and emotions to make a conclusion