Welcome to the first human experiment in time travel, an epic undertaking to understand where we came from—and use that knowledge to create a better future.
The Origins Mission was born out of a desire to better prepare ourselves for the challenges of climate change and environmental upheaval. As coastal areas have flooded and cities have smoldered in wildfires or been swept away by hurricanes, the need for a sustainable, adaptable future is more obvious than ever. By sending two researchers back in time to periods when Earth underwent dramatic environmental changes, we hope to understand how our ingenious species adapted and survived while other hominins died out.
The Origins Mission, sponsored by the Megatherium Society, will send two field researchers back in time and space to eight separate locations and periods. These intrepid travelers will rely on the most cutting-edge technology ever developed, both for transportation (via the Tipler Dome), and in the tools they use to conduct their research. To learn more about the mission and the Tipler Dome, visit our FAQ.
1 million years ago: Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. This location has historically been a fruitful region for archaeologists’ excavations. The researchers will be within walking distance of the Olorgesailie Basin in Kenya and Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. At both sites, archaeologists have found multiple hominin species, different stone tool assemblages, and other fossil evidence that shows our early ancestors lived here.
700,000 years ago: Atapuerca Mountains, Spain. This region is one of the most fossil-rich sites in archaeology, and includes evidence of our ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis. Depending on their safety and access to materials, the researchers may also attempt to make their way south to North Africa for further research.
600,000 years ago: Zhoukoudian, China. Asia is home to its fair share of unique fossils, including later examples of Homo erectus. This site was chosen for our researchers to investigate how far Homo erectus traveled to the east, whether other hominin species lived in this region at the same time, and how tool cultures varied in this location.
400,000 years ago: Flores, Indonesia. That’s right, our achroniologists will be visiting with the Hobbits! This island was home to one of the strangest finds in paleoanthropological history, the tiny Flores people and the miniature elephants they butchered for food.
200,000 years ago: Guateng, South Africa. Our researchers will head back to Africa to learn about the more recent diversity of hominin species. They’ll look at trade networks and the cultures of species like Homo naledi, whom researchers currently believe may have buried their dead—often considered an important sign of cognitive complexity.
130,000 years ago: Mount Carmel, Israel. This location in the Levant has been famous for more than a century because of the finds discovered here, from Neanderthal remains to some of the oldest Homo sapiens specimens ever found. Did they interact with each other in this region? Hopefully our achroniologists will find out!
60,000 years ago: La Chappelle-aux-Saints, France. Famous for its cave paintings, this location was home to both Neanderthals and early humans. Maybe our researchers will see some of the painting in action, and learn more about the material culture produced by these groups, as well as why megafauna began going extinct. Was it the rapidly changing climate, or overhunting by hominins? And what made the Neanderthals disappear, but not humans?
13,000 years ago: Calvert Island, British Columbia. The last stop along the way, this location was chosen because it was an early site for human habitation into the Americas. It may tell us more about how humans first came to the continent, and what conditions were like when they arrived.