120,000 YEARS AGO. The appearance of Homo sapiens-anatomically modern humans-was a long evolutionary process. Probably descended from Homo erectus, who had evolved in Africa about 1.7 million years ago, Homo sapiens had larger brains, were linguistically adept, and capable of reflective thought. By the time H. sapiens, meaning “wise man,” emerged from Africa some 120,000 years ago, they were already much the same as today’s humans. During the course of 80,000 years, they traveled first to the Middle East around 120,000 years ago, continued on to East Asia by about 50,000 years ago, and then to Europe some 40,000 years ago. There they encountered Neanderthals-classified alternately as a subspecies of H. sapiens or a separate species descended from H. erectus–whose brains were similar in size but may not have been as well developed for speech and social skills dependent on speech. They died out-or were assimilated into the dominant populations of H. sapiens-some 32,000 years ago.