How would things be if we had never been there? A convoluted question, indeed, but nevertheless, an intriguing one.

It’s not a frivolous question though. According to a study, between 8,13,000 and 9,30,000 years ago, the ancestors of human species almost became extinct.

Those two-legged ancestors of ours, who were hunter-gatherers and were technologically advanced-enough to control fire for their use and make tools, were called homo erectus.

But they were almost gone — almost all them.

A recent study published in Science has found that only around 1,280 individuals capable of breeding were left on earth, during what is called a ‘bottleneck’ period. And this bottleneck was not brief — it lasted for 1,17,000 years, the study shows. The researchers, mainly geneticists and paleoanthropologists, wanted to predict past human population sizes from over 3,000 present-day human genomes. “The bottleneck is congruent with a substantial chronological gap in the available African and Eurasian fossil record,” the authors say.

Why the population plunged, the researchers could only theorize. It was the middle of the Pleistocene period, and the world was very, very cold. Looks like most of the chaps couldn’t take it. But those did, would leave behind a lot of consequence.

We are 8 billion today.