Recently saw a program on the origins of man on Nova.
Seems that, while possessing a large brain, the Homo Erectus Neanderthalensis was a hardwired plains carnivore and existed exclusively on meat and may have perished during the extended ice age which had a great impact on large animals. The European tools all were large and designed for hunting and killing large animals at close range. Fossils found, all showed signs of multiple injuries, especially in adult males.
During this same time the Homo Erectus which remained in Africa were forced to the coasts and there learned to fish and gather fruits, nuts, vegetables. This brought about the making of a great variety of tools for delicate tasks such as prying open clams and mussles. But more importantly, as shellfish can be gathered only during very low tides, it may well have led to the first calendar and possibly spiritualism (full moon, low tide, good for clams). This may well have been the major cause for the continued development of the brain for abstract thought. Homo Sapiens naturally developed as a result of diversification and adaption.
They concluded that at least one variety of modern man originated at the tip of So Africa.
An interesting aside. There was also a “bottle-neck” effect. Apparently the earliest humans in Africa had a much greater DNA variety than those who made it into Europe and beyond. As only a relatively few made the migration, a lot of the diversity was lost due to the bottle-neck effect, which may further account for differences with the more advanced modern man who the later migrated from Africa.
One other interesting fact is the realization that migration happened very slowly over tens of thousands of years. Thus if tribes (families) moved 1 mile per year, in 5000 - 10000 years they would have spread all over Europe and beyond.