Geography Of Africa

As the Cradle of Mankind, Africa certainly offers the fascinating contours and crevices that were undoubtedly home to mankind’s earliest predecessors. Archaeologists from all over the world have flocked to this continent, and it has rewarded many of them with telling evidence of human beings and the lives they lived in prehistoric Africa.

In the beginning, it is believed that one solid land mass existed, rather than separate continents. This mass was called, amongst other names, Pangaea, and is thought to have existed some 300 million years ago. Africa was merely a projection out of the larger piece of land, and the entire continent boasted similar vegetation and a variety of impressive dinosaurs. It is believed to be approximately 150 million years ago that the African continent began to split from Pangaea, only remaining in contact with Asia in the northeastern-most corner.

Africa is 8000km long, from the furthest southern point (Cape Agulhas in South Africa) to the most northern extremity (Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia). At its widest (between Cape Verde in the West to Ras Hafun in Somalia in the East), Africa measures approximately 7400km. The coastline of the entire continent is fairly free of major indentations and bays, reducing its total area somewhat. It measures 26 000km.

Image of View from Mosesberg called Mountain Horeb or Mountain Sinai (2285alt.) to the south.
View from Mosesberg called Mountain Horeb or Mountain Sinai (2285alt.) to the south.

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is rich in historical and prehistoric value. For decades, archaeologists, scientific researchers and explorers have delighted in the rich remains of ancient sites, such as Sudan. These have revealed many secrets regarding the lives and customs of ancient man, providing a platform from which to study their development, as well as the benefit they got from Africa’s geological structure. The smallest on-land African country is Gambia, while the island of the Seychelles is the smallest African state overall.

Ptolemy was a geographer in the 1st century of our Common Era (CE) and propagated the idea that Africa was only the area west of Egypt, while the remaining part of the continent was deemed to be part of Asia. This made the Suez and Red Sea the boundary between these two continents. This idea was held by the ancient Romans for many years. When the Europeans started their exploration of the area, they discovered that, in fact, the area they had thought was Africa was, geographically, much larger. This made exploration of its extents even more interesting and exhilarating.

Another factor that made ancient Africa so diverse (in terms of the civilisations it was home to) was its range of flora and climates. North Africa right down into the northern parts of Central Africa were defined by dry, arid desert landscapes. Further into Central and southern Africa, the flora became more lush and tropical, with dense rainforests. Among these extremes are many other types of vegetation. This meant that even ancient Africa could accommodate an array of different animal species, and that our human ancestors could settle in different kinds of environments, depending on their needs and expertise.

It was this range of landscapes and vegetation that made Africa such an enticing and enthralling continent, and archaeological findings have proven that the humans that walked the earth in ancient times could, indeed, appreciate this richness and abundance.

For more information, please view: Africa Geography

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.