Homo sapiens has been hiding an even more disturbing secret. Not only does Homo sapiens have many uncivilized cousins, but it also once had many brothers and sisters. This is because for the past 10,000 years our species has indeed been the only human species. However, the true meaning of the word “human” is “an animal belonging to the genus Homo, “and there were many other species besides Homo sapiens.
Further more, as I will discuss in the last chapter of this book, in the not-too-distant future we may have to contend with non-homo sapiens humans again. To make this point clear, we will use the term “sapiens” when referring to the species Homo sapiens, and the term “human” when referring to all extant species of the genus Homo.
Humans evolved in East Africa about 2.5 million years ago from a genus of apes called Australopithecus, which means “southernape.” About 2 million years ago, some of these ancient men and women left their home land and traveled and settled in vast areas of North Africa, Europe, and Asia. Because survival in the snowy forests of northern Europe required different traits than those needed to stay alive in the sultry jungles of Indonesia, human populations evolved in different directions. As a result, several different species emerged, and scientists gave each one a pompous Latin name.