For the last two hundred thousand years or so, Cro-Magnon, the modern homo sapiens, has changed very little. Any given pair of individuals in this time period would be visually indistinguishable as species so long as they were subjected to the same environmental factors. However, the hominid genus is about a million years old, and modern man is just the last sliver of it, definitely not the original. The original hominid would not be recognized as any species living today. That is if anything could be called the original hominid; rather than a single such species having ever existed, today's paleotologists reconstruct a gradual transition with no clear break. But there has been much speculation, study and effort to find the original man, probably some outlandish fiction too. In fact, this is one of the oldest tropes in the book. Can overlap with Advanced Ancient Humans, depending on how complex original man's society was. Also compare with Frazetta Man and All Cavemen Were Neanderthals. A variation of the trope is an older species of man that was wiped out before ours began or is biologically independent of the homo sapiens genus in some other way. In these cases human familiarity is a must, otherwise they belong under precursors.
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- In Marvel Comics's Earth X/Universe X/Paradise X trilogy, the original humans were a feral, beastlike race before the Celestials came to our planet and began fiddling with our genetics. The Celestials use young planets as "incubators" for their kind, and Superhumans were created to act as "antibodies" to protect the planet from invasion—particularly from Galactus, their sworn enemy. It turns out that Wolverine is not a mutant, but actually the last "pure" human left alive.
- In Marvel comics, Adam K'ad-mon is a man-thing lookalike who is believed by some to be the original human being and protects the prime matrix, which is the focal point of the "multiverse".
- According to Marville Wolverine was the first human. He evolved from an otter.
- In Mission to Mars, the then famous face was theorized to have been carved by original man. (Then famous because when we actually saw it in real life it turned out not to be a face.)
- In Symposium, Plato makes a fictional Aristophanes present a "Just So" Story on the origin of love. According to this tale, humans as originally created by the titans were not like we are today: We had two heads, four legs, four arms and both sets of reproductive organs. The later gods changed us to be more like them (which is better than what they considered doing). The idea was to make us wish for the parts we no longer had and supposed to teach us love.
- One early Discworld novel reveals that the First Men of the Disc created by the gods were immensely powerful beings, which took one look at their situation including their sucky gods and lost their tempers. After the resulting mayhem, men were re-created a good deal smaller.
- Stargate's Alterans, an ancient human subspecies predating Cro-Magnon. They are indistinguishable from homo sapiens outwardly, technically have much greater genetic diversity on account of longer existence and wider distribution but so few are left in the visible universe that it is almost a moot point, and most of them Ascended thousands of years ago. The Stargate builders among them left behind a lot of technology that only works when used by people with their genes though.
Religion, Folklore and Mythology
- The Book of Genesis describes the creation of humans beings twice. First time man and woman are created at the same time and told to take care of the Earth and multiply across it by God. The second time woman is made from man, they were originally immortal, and reproduction is a punishment for eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which causes them to experience mortality as a price for gaining moral judgment similar to God's. Some ways of looking at it, as relating to this trope:
- Adam, Eve, and the garden of Eden were created separately from the rest of the Earth. Adam and Eve joined original man after being forced out of the garden. (in religious that do not take Enoch as canon it might can account for the half breed Nephilim. The sons of God being original man, the daughters of men being from Adam's line and the giant Nephilim being hybrids. Those accepting Enoch see fallen angels as responsible, suggesting a different trope)
- Original woman abandoned Adam or was forced out of the garden by him and a new woman was created who was more similar to Adam in her makeup.
- In the Zohar and other Kabbalah texts, original man, Adam Kadmon, is not so much a physical being as it is a spiritual realm from which every human body gets its soul.
- Thanks to syncreticism, original woman is often equated to Lilith (originally an animal in The Bible or a demon in Sumerian Mythology), which would make her very different from modern woman.
- In Manichean religion, original man was a creation of God given to the world of light to help them fight off the invading forces of The Antigod from the world of darkness. Modern man was a mistake caused by not properly following God's instruction.
- In a lot of Gnostic discourses, modern man is said to be an illusion and inferior imitation of the original man.
- Adam and Eve are described as having been giants (about 60 cubits tall, or 90 feet) in Islamic tradition, with each successive generation of descendants gradually decreasing in proportions to the size modern humans have been for the last few thousand years. Also, humans originally did not age but started doing so many thousands of years later (partially in response to Abraham asking God for a sign that his life is nearing its end).
- In some Chinese creation stories, original man Pan Gu was a giant and modern man were as fleas living on his flesh. When Pan Gu died his remains became many of the Earth's features. In fact there would not even be a planet if Pan Gu had not shaped it while he was alive.
- The original man, Kali (or Kaliyan) was born from a fragment of evil in Ayyavazhi mythology and he and his later created wife are distinct from swyambhuvana manu, the naturally evolved man of wider Hindu religion (and is not to be confused with the righteous goddess Kali either).
- In Mayan Mythology, the gods tried to destroy original man with a great flood but a few people managed to survive. For this act of defiance they were turned into the monkeys which populate the American jungles to this day.
- Aztec Mythology, told that the original human race was devoured by ocelots. Not so cute anymore is it?
- Creek Indians had taught that sky people predated the human race and that fire was stolen from them for us.
- Izanagi and Izanami of Shinto are often interpreted as a god couple by modern readers but the classical texts suggest something more along the lines of original human beings, the vast differences between us and them simply popping up over time.
- Demon The Fallen actually depicts Adam and Eve as Ultimate Lifeforms. Their antediluvian descendants are also described as exceptionally powerful, if only because they had infinite faith (in God and the angels)—something that their modern descendants severely lack, much to the dismay of the returning Fallen.
- In the Nasuverse, copies are always inferior to the original, and since children are considered copies of their originals, the first humans (i.e. human archetypes) have been immensely more powerful than their modern descendants.
- In the Assassin's Creed franchise, humans are lifeforms created by members of an ancient and powerful race to be used as a Servant Race via Mind Manipulation. They look like us in pretty much every significant way, but with six senses instead of five. Adam and Eve were not the first humans, but the first Half Human Hybrids that were immune to their mind control. Millennia later, in the present, the ancient race is extinct and what was left of their genes has become severely diluted in the modern human race. As a result, we are all once again susceptible to Mind Manipulation.
- In the Xenogears canon, the humans that live on the planet the game is set on are descendants of the creations of "Deus", the supercomputer that acts as the overarching central antagonist. As such, all humans are "pieces" of Deus itself that it one day plans to absorb as part of a millennia-long self-repair program. The "original" humans were part of the spaceship which Deus took over and destroyed.
- Halo's original man used to hold one of the strongest interstellar empires in the galaxy. Then, tens of thousands of years ago, the Forerunners defeated them, erased all traces of their empire, stripped them of all their technology, forcibly devolved them into a more primitive state, and quarantined the vast majority of them on their home planet of Erde-Tyrene.
- "The" Original Man is suspect, as we cannot be sure a new fossil won't be discovered that's a better candidate than the currently-known hominids. Plus, where do you draw the line between Original Man and common ancestor of humans and other apes?