Africa – Origin of Man

The recent African “Origin of Man” theory or Recent African Origin (RAO) model is designed to explain the origin of earliest humans in Africa. This continent is believed to be the Cradle of Humankind, the first point from which humans originated. This is also known as the Recent Single-Origin Hypothesis or RSOH, as it places the development of the modern civilisations and, indeed, mankind as originating from one central point.

Image of Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.
Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.

Darwin’s theories in the 1800’s were the original basis for this belief. He hypothesised that all modern life is merely an evolution of an extinct version of the same type of animal and in the same region it had once occupied. Because Charles Darwin believed that all human beings were merely descendents of a prehistoric and extinct ape, this placed the origin of man in the same area as the original site of the apes; i.e. Africa. This theory was supported half a century later by fossils and remains of an ancient hominid civilisation and their implements. These were found in Africa. This was the theory of MONOGENISM.

Image of a Sketch Of Charles Darwin
Sketch Of Charles Darwin

However, in more recent times, DNA evidence as well as anthropological findings have worked together to further add to Darwin’s original ideas. The first human beings are believed to have replaced Neanderthals approximately 150 000 years ago, having been the earliest ancestors of humans on earth. This means that, according to this popular theory, all other mankind on earth originated, at some time in human history, from Africa.

Most scientists believe that the Cradle of Mankind is in East Africa. This is largely because of Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania archaeological and fossilised remains that have been found in significant sites in this part of the vast continent. These include the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and Koobi Fora in Kenya.

The 1800’s saw the input of different researchers and anthropologists and thus was born an opposing theory called POLYGENISM. This proposed that the human race is made up of smaller civilisations that developed independently of one another from prehistoric hominids. This theory petered out by the mid 1900’s, although some scientists still hold firm to this conviction.

Major advances were made when, in the late 20th century, technology was developed that could date the migration of man around and out of Africa. Then, in 2000, further developments and testing could trace the mtDNA sequence of Mungo Man – an Australian predecessor of human beings, according to researchers and anthropologists.

There remain many questions and doubts regarding these and other theories and their reliability. Scientific research and archaeological findings present much fascinating evidence, but contradictions, gaps and lack of substantial bases cast doubt. However, most scientists still believe Africa to be the origin of man and the true Cradle of Humankind.

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Effects Of Climatic And Environmental Changes On Ancient African Civilisations

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the entire planet earth looked very different to what modern man experiences today. Continents were not yet divided, and the vegetation and animals were different. Significantly, the climate was also vastly different to what it is today. Climate plays an integral role in determining the plants and animal that live in a certain areas, as well as how habitable a place is for human beings.

In fact, even the theory of the evolution of man was dependent largely on the climatic influences on our ancient ancestors. It is hypothesised that the ancient versions of man were forced to walk upright, lose body hair and develop their coordination for survival in a changing environment. New skills also needed to be learned as farming techniques and living habits had to be adapted.

Ancient Africa experienced major vacillations between mega-droughts and Ice Ages, although these fluctuations occurred over thousands and thousands of years. As humans continued to develop and evolve through these phases, they needed to make major adaptations, not only to their ways of life, but also to their personal body structure. Prior to 135 000 years ago, the whole of Africa was lush and fertile, with a tropical climate. Then, the most intense mega-drought ever to occur hit the continent in the period referred to as the early part of the Late Pleistocene epoch. This is believed to have led to the migration of most of our human ancestors into other areas that were more habitable and fertile. Lake Malawi has been used by scientists as a rain gauge to ascertain water levels in ancient times. Research has shown that, during this mega-drought, the lake’s level dropped at least 1968 feet, or 600 metres! Evolutionists claim that this severe lack of water not only pushed ancient man from the area, it also forced aquatic animals (such as fish) to develop the facilities to be able to survive on dry land, thus evolving into land animals.

As people flocked out of the continent, only a very small proportion of this specific generation remained. Humankind as we know it is widely believed to have come from these few remaining on the continent, who evolved significantly and in response to the climatic changes.

These conditions continued until about 70 000 years ago, when the climate was again characterised by wetter conditions. These led to the growth and renewal of fresh vegetation, as well as an increased water supply to the region. More people were in the area during this time of abundance, and the population grew. This increase in numbers eventually led to migrations due to space limitations and the ownership of land.

Then, about 20 000 years ago, an Ice Age overcame the entire earth. This meant that the planet underwent a long-term period of cold temperatures over most of its surface. In places like North America and Eurasia, giant ice sheets covered enormous proportions of the land, making it impossible to farm and, sometimes, even live in these areas. This final Ice Age lasted for about 9 500 years. It forced most of the populations to migrate to the highlands, where they would be relatively protected from the ice sheets. Again, these civilisations had to adapt their farming methods, and change their diet, social habits, clothing and migratory patterns. This forced an evolution to a certain extent. Body hair was necessary to keep people warm, their skin lightened due to a lack of the harsh rays of the sun that they experienced during the mega-droughts, etc…

When this Ice Age came to an end 10 500 years ago, areas like the Sahara were left fertile and healthy. This made it and the other areas like it the ideal spots in which to settle as ancient man began to descend from the highlands. Animals and plants thrived in this environment, which made it very desirable in the eyes of mankind. The abundance of food, water and sunshine again changed the habits and physical structures of our earliest forefathers.

These conditions lasted for some time, but the Sahara in particular continued to experience fluctuations between humid and dry conditions. These eventually left the entire area unable to yield crops or sustain life for any extended period of time. Today, it remains a large stretch of desert. Then, approximately 2500 years ago, the group of people who had made their home in the Sahara began to follow the direction of the Nile River, which held promise of a rich water supply. The arid conditions of the Sahara and its surrounds continue to the present day.

Africa has, since prehistoric times, proven to be a place of fascination, life and evolution. Changes in the climate were often dramatic, and these were, to a great extent, responsible for determining the ancient civilisations that inhabited this vast continent. It is no wonder that many researchers and scientists maintain that Africa is the Cradle of Mankind, and research continues to yield fascinating evidence of this theory.