A 7 years-walk: from Ethiopia to South America
About 60,000 years ago, our ancestors took the first steps out of their prehistoric African “Eden” to begin exploring the Earth. In early 2014, reporter Paul Salopek will follow their footsteps during an epic on-foot journey that will take seven years.
Journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek is undertaking an ambitious expedition to retrace on foot the path our ancient ancestors traveled as they migrated across the world. Equipped only with what he can carry in his backpack, Paul’s goal is to cover the major global stories of our time by walking alongside the people who live them on a daily basis: cattle nomads, artists, traders, villagers, farmers, and scientists. The end result? A global mosaic of stories, faces, sounds and landscapes that highlight the pathways that connect us to each other.
“This was how we were designed to absorb information, at 5km an hour (3mph).”
A storytelling laboratory, funded in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will experiment with new mapping tools that enhance long-form online journalism.One of the centerpieces will be a series of narrative readings that Salopek will collect at hundred-mile intervals as he moves across the world. These audio and video samples will create a picture of modern life on Earth along the pathways of ancient migrations. This rich trove of “slow journalism” will provide a unique learning experience for schoolchildren across cultures.
But who is Paul Salopek? He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer born in California and raised in Mexico. As a foreign correspondent, he has worked in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Latin America. His reporting has won most of the national journalism awards in the United States, including two Pulitzer Prizes, the first for Explanatory Reporting for two articles on The Human Genome Diversity Project and the second for International Reporting for his work covering Africa. Salopek holds a B.A. in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is married to visual artist Linda Lynch.
The starting point for the trek is Herto Bouri, a site in north-eastern Ethiopia populated by early humans in the Middle Stone Age.
“Paleoanthropologists have found an extremely old Homo sapiens fossil there, which might be as much as 160,000 years old (…), I shall be retracing the pathways of the first human diaspora out of Africa, which occurred about 50 to 70,000 years ago, as authentically as possible, on foot,” says Salopek.
From Ethiopia’s Rift Valley he will walk with Afar nomads to the Red Sea and cross over into Arabia, where he will follow the western coast north to the Middle East, ending the year either in Jerusalem or Amman.
“From there I shall continue the trek eastward across Eurasia into East Asia, through China and north through Siberia,” he says.
China alone will take him 14 months to cross.
“I’ll hop a boat across the Bering Straits and then ramble down the New World to Tierra del Fuego, the place where our ancestors arrived about 12,000 years ago, the last continental corner of the world to be colonised by our forebears.”
The route Salopek is following is one of a number of possible ways that humans left Africa and settled the world.
To follow the whole trek and keep updated of his trip visit the website Out of Eden.