History – East Africa


As with other areas of Africa, scientists, researchers and anthropologists have named East Africa the Cradle of Humankind, believing it to be the site of human origin. Remains of ancient hominids have been found throughout East Africa. The Awash Valley in Ethiopia, Kenya’s Koobi Fora and the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania are all acclaimed the world over for their abundant fossilised findings. These discoveries are the only remnants of this prehistoric time, during which records consist only of cave paintings, fossils and preserved implements as opposed to written records.

Recorded history of East Africa began during the 15th century, when Vasco da Gama arrived in Mombasa in 1498. His ultimate purpose was to facilitate trade with India and the East by sea, rather than by the alternative routes that were being dominated by the Turks and Venice. Once da Gama pioneered this water route, the Portuguese ruled the East African coastal strip at Mombasa. In 1505, the Portuguese conquered the island of Kilwa, followed by Mombasa, which was completely destroyed. After these two locations were conquered, Hoja, Barawa, Angoche and Pate were among the other towns that were attacked successfully. Portuguese supremacy was the ultimate goal so that the spice trade with the Arab suppliers could be enabled.

Image of One of the many cannons at Fort Jesus Mombasa Kenya.
One of the many cannons at Fort Jesus Mombasa Kenya.

The Portuguese ships in these waters had a very negative effect on the enemies that were also trying to make use of this route. This eventually led to active confrontations between the Arabs and the Portuguese, which resulted in the Portuguese being ousted from the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania in the 1700’s. A combination of Portugal’s loss of interest in the spice trade and the Arab’s attacks caused the Arabs to seize most of the trade that was going on in the Indian Ocean at that time. The Portuguese remained as rulers in Mozambique until 1975, when Mozambique won its independence. Kenya and Tanzania suffered under Omani Arab rule. At first, this rule was only exerted on the coastal areas. However, as the Omani Arabs established clove plantations and placed the new capital in Zanzibar, this domination extended inland by the mid 1800’s. It was only when the British determined to abolish the slave trade that they began to put a lot of pressure on the Omani empire. The British military was instrumental in enforcing the ban on slave trades and continued to exert pressure until the 1880’s, when the main ports were seized by Britain and Germany, who then made important alliances with key industrial players.

From this time well into the 1900’s, different European countries fought for East Africa. Nearly all of East Africa’s countries were controlled by some part of Europe. Portugal had control of Lake Malawi’s eastern coast, while Britain controlled Uganda and Kenya. Madagascar was seized by the French, some of Somalia to Italy, and Rwanda, Burundi and the main part of Tanzania went to the Germans. These seizures were a time of war and devastation for East Africa. While the battle for independence and freedom were not won without much persecution, East Africa has advanced in leaps and bounds on a social and political level. However, it is vital that we remember and appreciate its rich prehistorical value in terms of the origin of the human race as we know it today.

For more information, please view: East African History

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.