Trace the milestones of our species’ fascinating history in African Hall's Human Odyssey—and discover why the 7 billion people on Earth today are far more alike than you might think.    

The human species' path hasn't been an easy one; in fact, Homo sapiens nearly went extinct some 70,000 – 90,000 years ago. Learn more about that close call—and the milestones that dot our species’ evolutionary history—while exploring the origins of humankind.

Examine the skull casts of three early hominid species, then watch as their faces appear, thanks to “Pepper’s Ghost” optical illusion technology. Compare the distinctive gaits of a chimpanzee, Australopithecus afarensis, and a modern human. Use touchscreen stations to trace our species’ migration from its African origins, then see how Academy research is helping us better understand our human journey. 

 

Close up of the "Selam" Australopithecus afarensis skull.

The World's Oldest Child

In 2006, the Academy's Dr. Zeray Alemseged reported finding a 3.3 million-year-old fossil in Ethiopia—the skeleton of a 3-year-old Australopithecus afarensis child. Nicknamed “Selam,” the discovery has provided new insights into the anatomical, behavioral, and developmental evolution of early human ancestors.

 

Visitors explore the Human Migration Map.

Human Migration Map

Using archeological, genetic, and climate data, scientists have pieced together an outline of the human odyssey—the journey that took our species from Africa to all corners of the globe. Experience this 200,000-year migration using an interactive map at the link below.

A visitors reads the timeline detailing our species' various migrations.

Human Odyssey FAQ

How are humans related to other animals? Who was Lucy? Does evolution occur in a straight line? After a 200,000-year journey, there are sure to be questions. We've got answers to a few that are regularly inspired by visiting Human Odyssey

A reproduction of the famous "Lucy" skeleton.

A Single Species

During our species' near-extinction some 70,000 years ago, the number of humans dropped to 10,000 mating pairs. The result? When it comes to our DNA, all humans—regardless of race, color, or nationality—are 99.9% alike.

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The Man Behind Selam

Meet Dr. Zeray Alemseged, the Academy's Curator and Irvine Chair of Anthropology. Learn what drove him to be a scientist—and what led him to the discovery of Selam—in this "Science Heroes" profile.  

Dr. Zeray Alemseged

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Anthropology at the Academy

The Academy's Department of Anthropology focuses on the study of human evolution and cultural diversity. Meet the researchers, explore projects and expeditions, and more.