List of countries and islands by first human settlement

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Map of human migration, based on studies of mitochondrial (matrilinear) DNA.

Though fossils of hominids have been found dating back millions of years, the earliest known Homo sapiens remains are considered to be the bones of five individuals found at Jebel Irhoud, in present-day Morocco.[1] The discovery of these fossils pushes back the oldest fossil evidence of the homo sapiens by 300,000 years. The previous oldest Homo sapiens remains came from Omo Kibish, in Ethiopia, and date to 195,000 years ago. From this area, humans spread out to cover all continents except Antarctica by 14,000 BP. According to a recent theory, humans may have crossed over into the Arabian Peninsula as early as 125,000 years ago.[2] From the Middle East, migration continued into India around 70,000 years ago, and Southeast Asia shortly after. Settlers could have crossed over to Australia and New Guinea – that were united as one continent (Sundaland and Sahul) at the time due to lower sea levels – as early as 55,000 years ago.[3] Migration into Europe took somewhat longer to occur; the first definite evidence of human settlement on this continent has been discovered in southern Italy, and dates back 43-45,000 years.[4] Settlement of Europe may have occurred as early as 45,000 years ago though, according to genetic research.[5] The Americas were populated by humans at least as early as 14,800 years ago,[6] though there is great uncertainty about the exact time and manner in which the Americas were populated.[7] More remote parts of the world, like Iceland, New Zealand and Madagascar were not populated until the historic era.[8]

The following table shows any geographical region at some point defined as a country – not necessarily a modern-day sovereign state – or any geographically distinct area such as an island, with the date of the first known or hypothesised human settlement. Dates are, unless specifically stated, approximate. Settlements are not necessarily continuous; settled areas in some cases become depopulated due to environmental conditions, such as glacial periods or the Toba volcanic eruption.[9] Where applicable, information is also given on the exact location where the settlement was discovered, and further information about the discovery. Some dates are based on genetic research (mitochondrial, or matrilinear DNA), and not on archaeological finds.

The list[edit]

Country Date Place Notes Ref(s)
Morocco 300,000 BP Jebel Irhoud Anatomically modern human remains of five individuals dated 300,000 years old, making them the oldest remains ever found. [1][10][11]
Ethiopia 195,000 BP Omo Kibish Formation The Omo remains found in 1967 near the Ethiopian Kibish Mountains, have been dated as ca. 195,000 years old.
Sudan 140,000–160,000 BP Singa Anatomically modern human discovered 1924 with rare temporal bone pathology [12][13]
United Arab Emirates 125,000 BP Jebel Faya Stone tools made by anatomically modern humans [14]
South Africa 125,000 BP Klasies River Caves Remains found in the Klasies River Caves in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa show signs of human hunting. There is some debate as to whether these remains represent anatomically modern humans. [15][16]
Libya 50,000–180,000 BP Haua Fteah Fragments of 2 mandibles discovered in 1953 [17]
Israel 100,000 BP Skhul/Qafzeh Discovered in 1929-1935; remains exhibit a mix of archaic and modern traits and may represent an early migration from Africa that died out by 80,000 years ago. [18]
Oman 75,000–125,000 BP Aybut Tools found in the Dhofar Governorate correspond with African objects from the so-called 'Nubian Complex', dating from 75-125,000 years ago. According to archaeologist Jeffrey I. Rose, human settlements spread east from Africa across the Arabian Peninsula. [2]
Democratic Republic of the Congo 90,000 BP Katanda, Upper Semliki River Semliki harpoon heads carved from bone. [19]
India 70,000 BP Jwalapuram, Andhra Pradesh Recent finds of stone tools in Jwalapuram before and after the Toba supereruption, may have been made by modern humans, but this is disputed. [3][20]
Indonesia 63,000-73,000 BP Lida Ajer cave Teeth found in Sumatra in the 19th century [21]
Philippines 67,000 BP Callao Cave Archaeologists, Dr. Armand Mijares with Dr. Phil Piper found bones in a cave near Peñablanca, Cagayan in 2010 have been dated as ca. 67,000 years old. It's the earliest human fossil ever found in Asia-Pacific [22]
Egypt 50,000–80,000 BP Taramasa Hill Skeleton of 8- to 10-year-old child discovered in 1994 [23]
Australia 65,000 BP Madjedbebe The oldest human skeletal remains are the 40,000-year-old Lake Mungo remains in New South Wales, but human ornaments discovered at Devil's Lair in Western Australia have been dated to 48,000 BP and artifacts at Madjedbebe in Northern Territory are dated to ca. 65,000 BP. [24][25][26]
Taiwan 50,000 BP Chihshan Rock Site Chipped stone tool similar to those of the Changpin culture on the east coast. [27]
Brazil 41,000–56,000 BP Pedra Furada Charcoal from the oldest layers yielded dates of 41,000-56,000 BP. [28]
Japan 47,000 BP Lake Nojiri Genetic research indicates arrival of humans in Japan by 37,000 BP. Archeological remains at the Tategahana Paleolithic Site at Lake Nojiri have been dated as early as 47,000 BP. [3][29]
Laos 46,000 BP Tam Pa Ling Cave In 2009 an ancient skull was recovered from a cave in the Annamite Mountains in northern Laos which is at least 46,000 years old, making it the oldest modern human fossil found to date in Southeast Asia [30]
Borneo 46,000 BP (see Malaysia)
Greece 45,000 BP Mount Parnassus Geneticist Bryan Sykes identifies 'Ursula' as the first of The Seven Daughters of Eve, and the carrier of the mitochondrial haplogroup U. This hypothetical woman moved between the mountain caves and the coast of Greece, and based on genetic research represent the first human settlement of Europe. [5]
Italy 43,000–45,000 BP Grotta del Cavallo, Apulia Two baby teeth discovered in Apulia in 1964 are the earliest modern human remains yet found in Europe. [4]
United Kingdom 41,500–44,200 BP Kents Cavern Human jaw fragment found in Torquay, Devon in 1927 [31]
Germany 42,000–43,000 BP Geißenklösterle, Baden-Württemberg Three Paleolithic flutes belonging to the early Aurignacian, which is associated with the assumed earliest presence of Homo sapiens in Europe (Cro-Magnon). It is the oldest example of prehistoric music. [32]
Lithuania 41,000–43,000 BP Šnaukštai (lt) near Gargždai A hammer made from reindeer horn similar to those used by the Bromme culture was found in 2016. The discovery pushed back the earliest evidence of human presence in Lithuania by 30,000 years, i.e. to before the last glacial period. [33]
East Timor 42,000 BP Jerimalai cave Fish bones [34]
China 39,000–42,000 BP Tianyuan Cave Bones found in a cave near Beijing in 1958 have been radiocarbon dated at between 39–42,000 years old. [35]
Tasmania 41,000 BP Jordan River Levee Optically stimulated luminescence results from the site suggest a date ca. 41,000 BP. Rising sea level left Tasmania isolated after 8000 BP. [36]
Hong Kong 39,000 BP Wong Tei Tung Optically stimulated luminescence results from the site suggest a date ca. 39,000 BP. [37]
Malaysia 34,000–46,000 BP Niah Cave A human skull in Sarawak, Borneo (Archaeologists have claimed a much earlier date for stone tools found in the Mansuli valley, near Lahad Datu in Sabah, but precise dating analysis has not yet been published.) [38][39]
New Guinea 40,000 BP Indonesian Side of New Guinea Archaeological evidence shows that 40,000 years ago, some of the first farmers came to New Guinea from the South-East Asian Peninsula. [3]
Romania 37,800–42,000 BP Peștera cu Oase Bones dated as 38–42,000 years old are among the oldest human remains found in Europe. [40][41]
Sri Lanka 34,000 BP Fa Hien Cave The earliest remains of anatomically modern man, based on radiocarbon dating of charcoal, have been found in the Fa Hien Cave in western Sri Lanka. [42]
Canada 25,000–40,000 BP Bluefish Caves Human-worked mammoth bone flakes found at Bluefish Caves, Yukon, are much older than the stone tools and animal remains at Haida Gwaii in British Columbia (10-12,000 BP) and indicate the earliest known human settlement in North America. [43][44]
Okinawa 32,000 BP Yamashita-cho cave, Naha city Bone artifacts and an ash seam dated to 32,000±1000 BP. [45]
France 32,000 BP Chauvet Cave The cave paintings in the Chauvet Cave in southern France have been called the earliest known cave art, though the dating is uncertain. [46]
Czech Republic 31,000 BP Mladeč caves Oldest human bones that clearly represent a human settlement in Europe. [47]
Poland 30,000 BP Obłazowa Cave A boomerang made from mammoth tusk
Tibetan Plateau 30,000 BP [48][49]
Buka Island, New Guinea 28,000 BP Kilu Cave Flaked stone, bone, and shell artifacts [50]
Russia 28,000-30,000 BP Sungir Burial site
Portugal 24,500 BP Abrigo do Lagar Velho Possible Neanderthal/Cro-Magnon hybrid, the Lapedo child [51]
Sicily 20,000 BP San Teodoro cave Human cranium dated by gamma-ray spectrometry [52]
United States 16,000 BP Meadowcroft Rockshelter Stone, bone, and wood artifacts and animal and plant remains found in Washington County, Pennsylvania. (Earlier claims have been made, but not corroborated, for sites such as Topper, South Carolina.)[53] [54]
Chile 18,500-14,800 BP Monte Verde Carbon dating of remains from this site represent the oldest known settlement in South America. [55][56]
Peru 14,000 BP Pikimachay Stone and bone artifacts found in a cave of the Ayacucho complex [57]
Santa Rosa Island 13,000 BP Arlington Springs site Arlington Springs Man discovered in 1959. The four northern Channel Islands of California were once conjoined into one island, Santa Rosae
Cyprus 12,500 BP Aetokremnos Burned bones of megafauna [58]
Colombia 12,400 BP El Abra Stone, bone and charcoal artifacts
Norway 9,200 BC Aukra The oldest remnants of the so-called Fosna culture were found in Aukra in Møre og Romsdal, and date from this period. [59]
Argentina 9,000 BC Piedra Museo Spear heads and human fossils [60]
Estonia 8,900 BC Pulli The Pulli settlement on the bank of the Pärnu River briefly pre-dates that at Kunda, which gave its name to the Kunda culture. [61]
Bioko 8,000 BC Early Bantu migration [62]
Northern Ireland 7,700 BC Mount Sandel Carbon dating of hazel nut shells reveals this place to have been inhabited for 9,700 years. [63][64]
Cambodia 7,000 BC Laang Spean Laang Spean cave in the Stung Sangker River valley, Battambang Province [65]
Zhokhov Island 6,300 BC Hunting tools and animal remains in the High Arctic [66][67]
Tuvalu 6,000 BC Caves of Nanumanga Evidence of fire in a submerged cave last accessible 8000 BP [68]
Malta 5,200 BC Għar Dalam Settlers from Sicily brought agriculture and impressed ware pottery. [69]
Trinidad 5,000 BC Banwari Trace Stone and bone artifacts mark the oldest archaeological site in the Caribbean. [70]
Puerto Rico 4,000 BC Angostura site Carbon dating of burial site [71]
Mariana Islands 3,000 BC Carbon dating of charcoal [72]
Greenland 2,000 BC Saqqaq Saqqaq culture was the first of several waves of settlement from northern Canada and from Scandinavia. [73]
Baffin Island, Canada 2,000 BC Pond Inlet In 1969, Pre-Dorset remains were discovered, with seal bones radiocarbon dated to 2035 BC [74]
Xinjiang 1,800 BC? Tarim Basin Tarim mummies [75]
Mariana Islands 1,500-1,400 BC? Artifacts similar to those from nowadays Philippines have been discovered [76]
Wrangel Island 1,400 BC Chertov Ovrag Sea-mammal hunting tools [77]
Tonga 1,180 BC Pea village on Tongatapu Radiocarbon dating of a shell found at the site dates the occupation at 3180±100 BP. [78]
Fiji 1,095 BC Bourewa Radiocarbon dating of a shell midden at Bourewa on Viti Levu Island shows earliest inhabitation at 1220-970 BC. [79]
Canary Islands 1,000 BC Genetic studies show relation to Moroccan Berbers, but precise date uncertain. [80]
Vanuatu 1,000 BC Teouma etc. Lapita pottery found at Teouma cemetery on Efate and on several other islands. [81]
Samoa 1,000 BC Mulifanua Lapita site found at Mulifanua Ferry Berth Site by New Zealand scientists in the 1970s. [82]
Hawaii 290 AD Ka Lae Early settlement from the Marquesas Islands [83]
Line Islands Perhaps as early as 400 AD When Polynesian traders travelling to and from Hawaii [84]
Madagascar 500 AD The population of Madagascar seems to have derived in equal measures from Borneo and East Africa. [85]
Comoros 550 AD
Faroe Islands 600 AD Agricultural remains from three locations were analysed and dated to as early as the sixth century A.D. [86]
Bahamas 850 AD Three Dog Site (SS21), San Salvador Island Excavated midden includes quartz and Ostionoid ceramic artifacts, wood and seed remains, etc., dated to 800-900 AD. [87]
Iceland 874 AD Reykjavík Ingólfr Arnarson, the first known Norse settler who came from mainland Norway, built his homestead in Reykjavík this year, though Norse or Hiberno-Scottish monks might have arrived up to two hundred years earlier. [8]
Huahine, French Polynesia 960 AD Fa'ahia Bird bones dated to 1140±90 BP [88]
Raiatea, French Polynesia 1000 AD Taputapuatea marae Stone religious structures established by 1000 AD.
Pitcairn Island 1050 AD Settled by Polynesians in the 11th century, later abandoned. Resettled by British and Polynesians 1790.
Easter Island 500-1200 AD Anakena Settled by voyagers from the Marquesas Islands, possibly as early as 300 AD. [89]
New Zealand 1250–1300 AD Wairau Bar Though some researchers suggest settlements as early as 50–150 AD, that later became extinct, it is generally accepted that the islands were permanently settled by Eastern Polynesians (the ancestors of the Māori) who arrived about 1250–1300 AD. [90][91]
Norfolk Island 1300 AD Emily Bay Settled by Polynesians, later abandoned. Resettled by British 1788. [92][93]
Auckland Islands 1300 AD Sandy Bay, Enderby Island Settled by Polynesians, later abandoned. Resettled from the Chatham Islands in 1842, later abandoned. [93]
Kermadec Islands 1400 AD Settled by Polynesians, later abandoned. Resettled by Europeans in 1810, later abandoned.
Madeira 1420 AD Settlers from Portugal.
Azores 1439 AD Santa Maria Island Settlers from Portugal led by Gonçalo Velho Cabral. [94]
Cape Verde 1462 AD Cidade Velha Settlers from Portugal.
São Tomé and Príncipe 1485 AD São Tomé Portuguese settlement in 1485 failed but was followed in 1493 by a successful settlement led by Álvaro Caminha. [95]
Saint Helena 1516 AD Settled by Fernão Lopes (soldier). Later populated by escaped slaves from Mozambique and Java, then by English in 1659. [96]
Annobón 1543 AD Alvaro da Cunha requested Portuguese royal charter in 1543 and by 1559 had settled Africans slaves there. [97]
Chatham Islands 1550 AD Moriori settlers from New Zealand. This was the last wave of Polynesian migrations. [98]
Bermuda 1609 AD Settled by English survivors of the Sea Venture shipwreck, led by George Somers.
Svalbard 1619 AD Smeerenburg Settled by Dutch and Danish whalers 1619-1657. Longyearbyen founded 1906 and continuously inhabited except for World War II. [99]
Mauritius 1638 AD Vieux Grand Port First settled by Dutch under Cornelius Gooyer. [100]
Réunion 1642 AD Settled 1642 by a dozen deported French mutineers from Madagascar, who were returned to France several years later. In 1665 the French East India Company started a permanent settlement.
Rodrigues 1691 AD Settled 1691 by a small group of French Huguenots led by François Leguat; abandoned 1693. The French settled slaves there in the 18th century. [101]
Juan Fernández Islands 1750 AD San Juan Bautista Settled by the Spanish to prevent its use by foreign powers and pirates. Destroyed in 1751 by a tsunami but soon rebuilt. [102]
Falkland Islands 1764 AD Puerto Soledad Settled by French during the expedition of Louis Antoine de Bougainville. [103]
Seychelles 1770 AD Ste. Anne Island Although visited earlier by Maldivians, Malays and Arabs, the first known settlement was a spice plantation established by the French, first on Ste. Anne Island, then moved to Mahé. [104]
Tristan da Cunha 1810 AD First settled by Jonathan Lambert and two other men. Continuously inhabited since then except 1961-1963 evacuation due to volcano. [105]
Cocos (Keeling) Islands 1814 AD? [106]
Ascension Island 1815 AD Settled as a British military garrison.
Bonin Islands 1830 AD Port Lloyd, Chichi-jima Some evidence of early settlement from the Marianas, but the islands were abandoned except for occasional shipwrecks until a group of Europeans, Polynesians, and Micronesians settled Chichi-jima in 1830. [107]
Lord Howe Island 1834 AD Blinky Beach Whaling supply station. It has been the last land to be colonized and continuously inhabited by permanent residents. [93]
Île Saint-Paul 1843 AD Although now uninhabited, there have been attempts at settlement. In June, 1843, a French garrison was established under the command of Polish-born Captain Adam Mierolawski, but it was soon abandoned. In 1928, a spiny lobster cannery was established, with the last two or three settlers rescued in 1934. [108][109]
Novaya Zemlya 1870 AD Malye Karmakuly [110][111][112]
Île Amsterdam 1871 AD Camp Heurtin Following various shipwrecks and visits by sealers and scientists in the 18th and 19th century, a short-lived settlement was made in 1871 by Heurtin, a French resident of Réunion Island. A French scientific base has been maintained since 1949. [113]
Daitō Islands 1900 AD Minamidaitōjima Tamaki Hanemon (ja) obtained the approval to develop two of islands from Empire of Japan
South Orkney Islands 1903 AD Orcadas Base Visited by sealers and whalers in the 19th century. Scientific base founded by Scottish National Antarctic Expedition and sold to Argentina in 1904.
South Georgia 1904 AD Grytviken Visited by sealers in the 19th century. Carl Anton Larsen founded a permanent whaling station in 1904.
Pratas Islands 1907 AD guano collecting station by Japanese businessman [114]
Jan Mayen 1921 AD Eggøya Visited by whalers in the 17th century, with some overwinter sojourns in 1633, 1882, and 1907. Weather station at Eggøya established 1921, followed by other weather and military stations. The current station, Olonkinbyen, has been continuously inhabited since 1958. [115]
Kerguelen Islands 1927 AD Port-Couvreux After occasional sojourns and shipwrecks in the 19th century, three families settled in a sheep-farming colony but were evacuated in 1934. Scientific station at Port-aux-Français has been continuously inhabited since 1950.
New Siberian Islands 1933 AD Kotelny Island Soviet Naval Base. [116]
South Shetland Islands 1947 AD Captain Arturo Prat Base Visited by sealers and explorers in the 19th century. Chilean naval base staffed continuously 1947-2004.
Prince Edward Islands 1947 AD Transvaal Cove Visited by sealers and shipwrecks in the 19th century. South Africa occupied the islands in 1947 and established a meteorological station. [117]
Antarctica 1948 AD Base General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme First permanent base in mainland Antarctica, operated by the Chilean Army.
Macquarie Island 1948 AD Macquarie Island Station Occasional sojourns and shipwrecks in the 19th century, continuously inhabited since 1948.
Crozet Islands 1963 AD Alfred Faure Occasional shipwrecks and visiting sealers and whalers in the 19th century, continuously inhabited since 1963.
Severnaya Zemlya 1980s AD Cape Baranov Opening of Russian Prima Polar Station [118]

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