1,000,000 BP - 100,000BP - 60,000BP - 40,000BP - 22,000BP - 17,000BP
12,800BP - 12,000BP - 11,600BP - 9000BP - 7000BP - 5500BP - 2800BP

Times BP - before present day.

1,000,000 BP
A variety of hominins have been developing slowly since the earliest evolved from apes 7 million years ago. By 1 million years ago Homo Erectus is well established.

900,000 years pass with gradual evolution of several different species of hominins.

100,000 BP
There is evidence of Neanderthals and early modern humans in Europe, Denisovans in Siberia, Homo Floriensis in Indonesia and Homo Naledi in Africa.

Several tens of thousands of years pass with these species of hominin co-existing until rather suddenly one of them evolves advanced thinking.

60,000 BP
Sometime around 60,000 or maybe 50,000 years ago, early modern humans underwent an evolution that gave them advanced thinking skills. Within the next few tens of thousands of years other hominins become extinct, quite probably through competition with these now more intelligent early modern humans.

In just 20,000 years mankind develops built settlements and trade networks

40,000 BP
The Aurignacian culture starts, leaving sophisticated long-blade stone tools and sculptures, developing cave art and by 30,000 BP the settlement at Dolni Vestonice in Czechoslovakia. This provides evidence of wooden post buildings, fabrics and netting, and the eating of quantities of shellfish. These must have come the several hundred miles from the mediterranean, giving evidence of long-distance trade

In the next 20,000 years it is probable that major civilisations developed, the evidence for which now lies up to 300 feet under the sea.

22,000 BP
The last glacial maximum when ice cover was at its greatest extent.

However where the ice cover was in the Northern hemisphere is not where you would expect it to be with our current North pole.

17,000 BP
Sea level starts rising as ice cover starts melting, probably due to the start of a shift in the positions of the poles, possibly combined with temperature rise caused by other factors

Over 4,000 years cities built at sea-level are submerged and people move progressively to higher ground, but in most cases places now under the sea.

12,800 BP
The impact of a comet on the North American ice sheet causes the abrupt start of the younger-dryas period. The heat of the impact melts massive amounts of ice, which together with volcanic activity and possibly acceleration of earth-crust displacement, cause worldwide floods that devastate cities and settlements built close to the sea, with huge loss of human life.

For 1,200 years the survivors of the flood live through an extremely cold period during which melting of ice cover is reversed.

approximately 12,000 BP (10,000 BC)
A group of people sufficiently powerful to command massive effort by the populace commence the construction of the megalithic structures at Gobekli Tepe. Alongside this agriculture is established in the fertile crescent.

The development of agriculture and farming in the fertile crescent happens remarkably quickly.

11,600 BP (9,600 BC)
The cold younger dryas period very suddenly ends, the earth warms up and ice cover melts rapidly, raising sea level to current levels and submerging any evidence of previous civilisations that had survived the flood. The cause of the sudden warming is not known, but might have given rise to legends that the gods restored the moon and stars to their place in the heavens.

Within 3,000 years of the (re)establishment of agriculture city civilisations appear

9,000 BP (7,000 BC)
As farming practices are spread from the fertile crescent into Northern Europe a new genetic marker is introduced into the genome of the European hunter-gatherers. This is carried by the near-East population in the fertile crescent, as they migrate and inter-breed. Where the population with this genetic difference came from is a mystery as the genetic marker is not present in the genomes of Asians, North Africans or European hunter-gatherers previously in this area.

Despite the spread of farming in Europe the near East / Middle East civilisations remain the area of most rapid development.

7,000 BP (5,000 BC)
Large town-like settlements exist at Jericho and Catal Huyuk, with surrounding areas intensively farmed. From these and settlements at other sites city civilisations develop, demonstrating what is achievable by stone-age peoples with no metal tools

Over the following 3,500 years city civilisations appear across the Middle East, India and South East Asia.

5,500 BP (3,500 BC)
The extraction of copper from ore begins and copper tools begin to be forged, particularly copper axes.

From the start of extraction of metal from ores it takes less than 2,000 years for humans to become proficient in metallurgy.

2,800 BP (800 BC)
The iron age begins, enabling the use of metals to construct machines as well as weapons, and wood to be cut much faster and more accurately, with many impacts on construction and transportation.

From the start of the iron age it takes only around 2,000 years for mankind to develop chemical technology and another few hundred years to develop electrical and then computer technology.

The two key mysteries are:

- What caused early modern humans to evolve their brains in a way that enabled them to displace and make extinct all other hominins, that had successfully survived for hundreds of thousands of years, co-existing with early modern humans?

- What was the trigger that apparently caused groups surviving successfully through hunting and gathering to suddenly turn to a farming lifestyle and society?

And once cities with specialised labour forces developed, what stopped mankind developing metallurgy much earlier?

Read the story for more.