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Thread: Were the first humans black or white?

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    rusina's Avatar Akaboshi
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    Default Were the first humans black or white?

    Were the first humans black or white?

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    Phier's Avatar Living in Gomorrah
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    I don't know of any studies done on early human DNA to determine race, or if we even know what markers to look for in early humans, but based on climate it would be shocking if they were anything but dark brown aka black.
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    Lysimachus's Avatar Spirit Cleric
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Black power!
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    DekuTrash's Avatar Human Directional
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Weren't they still very ape like in appearance?

    Or are we talking early man?
    Reffering to them as Black or White is damn silly though, oh society what have you done?

    I honestly don't know why people are so obsessed with the topic
    (Not referring to you )

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    Lysimachus's Avatar Spirit Cleric
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Quote Originally Posted by DekuTrash View Post
    Weren't they still very ape like in appearance?

    Or are we talking early man?
    Reffering to them as Black or White is damn silly though, oh society what have you done?

    I honestly don't know why people are so obsessed with the topic
    (Not referring to you )

    Sometimes when i'm on this forum it feels like people don't realise that black people actually exist judging from the things I read
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    Godfrey I of Leuven's Avatar Sohei
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Black...

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    Phier's Avatar Living in Gomorrah
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Quote Originally Posted by DekuTrash View Post
    Weren't they still very ape like in appearance?
    Well the first humans would look human being they were human. I'm sure there would be some different facial features much like we have between races today, after all at this point they are the only race and still have a couple of 100k years to diversify, but they would be unmistakably human.
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    Simetrical's Avatar Former Chief Technician
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    The first humans lived in Africa and were presumably black, insofar as they fit into any modern racial category.
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    Lysimachus's Avatar Spirit Cleric
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Given that there's a theory that civilisation started in East Africa, why did it start there? Why not somewhere else?
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    CobraStallone's Avatar Kihei
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    I think the guy just wants to know, not exactly about race here just curosity if the first humans were white, black or green or whatever

    And I believe they were black, but I have a couple of doubts about it
    Last edited by Simetrical; August 19, 2009 at 06:43 PM. Reason: Double post

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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    We know that both humans and chimpanzees can have a variety of skin colours, this mean that our ancestors most likely also carried the same properties. This mean that the ability to have light or dark skin have been present even before Homo Sapiens started to wander the earth. This also mean that the environment was the deciding factor of skin colour. Bushmen are living in an environment similar to what we think the earliest humans were living in.



    Some chimpanzee pics showing their variance in skin colour


    Edit: I found a better pictures of the bald chimpanzee. source


    A not too wild guess is that our skin colour became increasingly dark as we lost our bodyhair and later had the reverse happen when we put on clothes and entered a colder climate.
    Last edited by Adar; August 19, 2009 at 02:28 PM.
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    nopasties's Avatar Princeps Posterior
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    I had a professor say that the 'black' race emerged in west Africa a few thousand years ago. If we are talking about the original humans millions of years ago who is to say that there was not some diversity over time. I would think the first humans had a darker hue but black per say maybe not.

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    The Edain's Avatar Pili Posterior
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    I saw somewhere that the first Humans were Black or that of a similar colour, or of dark complextion.
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    I would say they were mostly black. There are different races of chimpanzees Adar, maybe that has something to do with their different skin colours? Different chimpanzee populations can have huge genetic variation, chimpanzees in the north of the congo have more genetic variation with those in the south of the congo than any 2 humans, even one Ethiopean and one Scottish.
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    Simetrical's Avatar Former Chief Technician
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adar View Post
    We know that both humans and chimpanzees can have a variety of skin colours, this mean that our ancestors most likely also carried the same properties.
    That doesn't follow at all. We're genetically quite different from our ancestors. In this case, human skin pigmentation follows climate very closely. The indigenous peoples of hot equatorial climates have dark skin, while inhabitants of cold northern regions have light skin. The prevalent theory is that regions with more sunlight promote darker skin to reduce the harmful effects of UV radiation, while regions with less sunlight promote lighter skin to allow synthesis of vitamin D. These effects are very strong, so that the skin color of human populations is very reliably linked to climate. You can read the Wikipedia article for more info, including citations of the original research establishing the correlations.

    Based on that, it's likely that our earliest ancestors had black skin, since they lived in Africa. Chimpanzees have fur, so the pressure toward dark skin doesn't apply to them, or only much less. The fur presumably stops most of the UV from getting to their skin anyway.
    Quote Originally Posted by Adar View Post
    A not too wild guess is that our skin colour became increasingly dark as we lost our bodyhair and later had the reverse happen when we put on clothes and entered a colder climate.
    Yes, this seems to be the prevalent hypothesis AFAICT.
    Quote Originally Posted by nopasties View Post
    I had a professor say that the 'black' race emerged in west Africa a few thousand years ago.
    The concept of "the black race" really isn't well-defined. We can talk about skin color, though. Early humans likely had dark skin. I have no idea whether they had other racial characteristics that we would today associate with black people; I don't see why they would.
    Quote Originally Posted by nopasties View Post
    If we are talking about the original humans millions of years ago
    The estimates I've seen mostly place the origin of the human species at less than a million years ago.
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    Adar's Avatar Just doing it
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simetrical View Post
    That doesn't follow at all. We're genetically quite different from our ancestors. In this case, human skin pigmentation follows climate very closely. The indigenous peoples of hot equatorial climates have dark skin, while inhabitants of cold northern regions have light skin. The prevalent theory is that regions with more sunlight promote darker skin to reduce the harmful effects of UV radiation, while regions with less sunlight promote lighter skin to allow synthesis of vitamin D. These effects are very strong, so that the skin color of human populations is very reliably linked to climate. You can read the Wikipedia article for more info, including citations of the original research establishing the correlations.
    I don't think you considered/understood the underlying genetics when writing your reply. Both chimpanzees and humans exhibit a great variance in skin colour. There are two possibilities here; the feature evolved separately (highly unlikely). Or our last common ancestor had a complex system for skin colour similar to the one human and the chimpanzees have. This property is exactly what have caused human pigmentation to follow the climate so closely. We are never more than a few mutations away from becoming darker/lighter.

    Also, the wikipedia article support my theory. The article clearly state that the last ancestor we share with chimpanzees seem to have the same colouring properties as chimpanzees (" Jablonski and Chaplin note that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that the hominid ancestors six million years ago had a skin tone different from the skin tone of today's chimpanzees—namely light-skinned under black hair*."). Natural selection in favour of the darker skin tones then turned the pre humans toward a darker complexion, just like the wikipedia article state "But as humans evolved to lose their body hair a parallel evolution permitted human populations to turn their base skin tone dark or light to adjust to the competing demands of 1) increasing eumelanin to protect from UV that was too intense and 2) reducing eumelanin so that enough UV would penetrate to synthesize enough vitamin D. By this explanation, prior to Homo sapiens colonization of extra-African territories, humans had dark skin given that they lived for extended periods of time where the sunlight is intense. As some humans migrated north, over time they developed light skin".

    Quote Originally Posted by Simetrical View Post
    Based on that, it's likely that our earliest ancestors had black skin, since they lived in Africa. Chimpanzees have fur, so the pressure toward dark skin doesn't apply to them, or only much less. The fur presumably stops most of the UV from getting to their skin anyway.
    I really don't understand what you consider yourself to be refuting in your post. Your 2nd paragraph is "Based on that, it's likely that our earliest ancestors had black skin, since they lived in Africa. Chimpanzees have fur, so the pressure toward dark skin doesn't apply to them, or only much less. The fur presumably stops most of the UV from getting to their skin anyway."

    In my post I state "This also mean that the environment was the deciding factor of skin colour. Bushmen are living in an environment similar to what we think the earliest humans were living in." And the final statement of my post is "A not too wild guess is that our skin colour became increasingly dark as we lost our bodyhair and later had the reverse happen when we put on clothes and entered a colder climate."

    This mean that our conclusions are in perfect agreement as long as you agree that Bushmen have dark skin.

    *Which is an oversimplified statement. Many chimpanzee exhibits darker skin tones than we normally call "light skinned", just like we can see on my chimpanzee pictures.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    (European) non-African individuals, there were 18 different amino acid sites in which the receptor proteins differed, and each amino acid that differed from the African receptor protein resulted in skin lighter than the skin of the African (and other equatorial) individuals. Nonetheless, the variations in the 261 silent sites in the MC1R were similar between the Africans and non-Africans, so the basic mutation rates among the Africans and non-Africans were the same. Also, close examination of the haplotype variation among the non-Europeans (including East Asians) suggested that, among most non-European non-Africans, the most common variants were in the silent mutation positions (Harding et al. 2000 p 1355). Thus, at least at this locus, most non-Europeans share the ancestral function. The fact that relatively light skinned east Asians varied little genetically from dark skinned Africans at this locus supports the fact that skin color is a complex trait determined by several genes. Thus light skin among east Asians occurs by way of a different genetic mechanism than that among Europeans. With regards to Europeans, the next question to ask would be: why were there zero differences and no divergences in the amino acid sequences of the receptor protein among the Africans (and other equatorial groups) while there were 18 differences among the populations in Ireland, England, and Sweden? (Harding et al., 2000, pp. 1359–1360) concluded that the intense sun in Africa created an evolutionary constraint that reduced severely the survival of progeny with any difference in the 693 sites of the MC1R gene that resulted in even one small change in the amino acid sequence of the receptor protein—because any variation from the African receptor protein produced significantly lighter skin that gave less protection from the intense African sun. In contrast, in Sweden, for example, the sun was so weak that no mutation in the receptor protein reduced the survival probability of progeny. Indeed, for the individuals from Ireland, England, and Sweden, the mutation variations among the 693 gene sites that caused changes in amino acid sequence was the same as the mutation variations in the 261 gene sites at which silent mutations still produced the same amino acid sequence. Thus, Harding concluded that the intense sun in Africa selectively killed off the progeny of individuals who had a mutation in the MC1R gene that made the skin lighter. However, the mutation rate toward lighter skin in the progeny of those African individuals who had moved North to areas with weaker sun was comparable to the mutation rate of the folks whose ancient ancestors grew up in Sweden. Hence, Harding concluded that the lightness of human skin was a direct result of random mutations in the MC1R gene that were non-lethal at the latitudes of Sweden. Even the mutations that produce red hair with little ability to tan were non-lethal in the northern latitudes.


    (Rogers, Iltis & Wooding 2004) examined Harding's data on the variation of MC1R nucleotide sequences for people of different ancestry to determine the most probable progression of the skin tone of human ancestors over the last five million years. Comparing the MC1R nucleotide sequences for chimpanzees and humans in various regions of the Earth, Rogers concluded that the common ancestors of all humans had light skin tone under dark hair—similar to the skin tone and hair color pattern of today's chimpanzees. That is 5 million years ago, the human ancestors' dark hair protected their light skin from the intense African sun so that there was no evolutionary constraint that killed off the progeny of those who had mutations in the MC1R nucleotide sequences that made their skin light. (Sweet 2002) argues that based on cave paintings, Europeans may have been dark as recently as 13,000 years ago. The painters depicted themselves as having darker complexions than the animals they hunted.
    However, over 1.2 million years ago, judging from the numbers and spread of variations among human and chimpanzee MC1R nucleotide sequences, the human ancestors in Africa began to lose their hair and they came under increasing evolutionary pressures that killed off the progeny of individuals that retained the inherited lightness of their skin. Folate breakdown in sun-exposed skin is inhibited by the presence of melanin and is essential for human fetal development. It is likely that folate conservation played an important role in the selection of dark skin in the ancient African ancestors of modern humans. By 1.2 million years ago, all people having descendants today had exactly the receptor protein of today's Africans; their skin was dark, and the intense sun killed off the progeny with any lighter skin that resulted from mutational variation in the receptor protein (Rogers, Iltis & Wooding 2004, p. 107).
    However, the progeny of those humans who migrated North away from the intense African sun had another evolutionary constraint: vitamin D availability. Human requirements for vitamin D (cholecalciferol) are in part met through photoconversion of a precursor to vitamin D3. As humans migrated north from the equator, they were exposed to less intense sunlight, in part because of the need for greater use of clothing to protect against the colder climate. Thus, under these conditions, evolutionary pressures would tend to select for lighter-skinned humans as there was less photodestruction of folate and a greater need for photogeneration of cholecalciferol. Tracking back the statistical patterns in variations in DNA among all known people sampled who are alive on the Earth today, it appears that

    1. From ~1.2 million years ago for at least ~1.35 million years, the ancestors of all people alive were as dark as today's Africans.
    2. The descendants of any pre-historic people who migrate North from the equator will mutate to become light over time because the evolutionary constraint keeping Africans' skin dark decreases generally the further North a people migrates[19]. This also occurs as a result of selection for light skin due to the need to produce vitamin D by way of the penetration of sunlight into the skin (the exception being if dietary sources of vitamin D are available—see the Inuit).
    3. The genetic mutations leading to light skin among East Asians are different from those of Europeans, suggesting that, following the migration out of Africa, the two groups became distinct populations that experienced a similar selective pressure due to settlement in northern latitudes.
    The difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.

  17. #17
    CtrlAltDe1337's Avatar Ronin
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Brown.

    A not too wild guess is that our skin colour became increasingly dark as we lost our bodyhair and later had the reverse happen when we put on clothes and entered a colder climate.[
    Skin color in different areas is almost totally controlled by sunlight, not the hotness or coolness of the climate or use of clothes. Lighter skin absorbs sunlight easier, but takes damage from the sun easier. Whites living in places with lots of sunlight would die off faster than black or brown-skinned people, but brown/blacks would not get enough sunlight, dying off more in the reverse climates. And as the gene pool narrowed, less and less people had the worse trait, making the prevailing skin colors correspond to sunlight exposure.


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    My Favorite Martian's Avatar Chinen
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Quote Originally Posted by Phier View Post
    I don't know of any studies done on early human DNA to determine race, or if we even know what markers to look for in early humans, but based on climate it would be shocking if they were anything but dark brown aka black.
    Afaik, there has not been found organic remains of early humans that preserve DNA. The earliest comes from Neandertalians but that does not lead that far back.
    Last edited by My Favorite Martian; August 20, 2009 at 12:20 AM.
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    roy34543's Avatar Ninja
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    It would be surprising if it was anything but black, we werent living in a enviroment that required more pale skin yet.

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    My Favorite Martian's Avatar Chinen
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    Default Re: Were the first humans black or white?

    Larger parts of the body were probably through evolution even after the separation of homo and pan covered by hair. How long we were furries may not be clear yet. Homo Erectus may still have been. We would have to ask paleo-anthropologists, they may have some ideas about.
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