According to many scientists, the beginnings of Europe go back to antiquity, and there specifically to the freedom and democracy of the Greeks. Others consider the foundations laid as late as in the Middle Ages. But the settlement of the area we call Europe today began far earlier. The key periods of our European history are to explain how Europe became what it is today.
Biting cold, oppressive heat, devastating drought and extreme climate shifts triggered the extinction of Neanderthal man, whose spread was limited to Europe and the Middle East, as well as the triumph of Homo sapiens, the intelligent human being. According to our current state of knowledge, mankind had its origins in north-eastern Africa. It is assumed that the use of fire as the first step to control of the environment and the development of language led to the gradual spread of mankind from there. Homo sapiens arrived in Europe about 40,000 years ago.