OUT OF AFRICA

OUT OF AFRICA

Archeological dig sitesThe concept that Africa belongs to Africans as a racial grouping is a narrative that only those Africans who have an agenda for, perpetuate unless, of course, there is simply a lack of education.

That there are different human races that exist across this earth in not in dispute however, as to who can claim a right over the other, is.

Archaeology is a discipline of discovery and particularly relates to recording artefacts and fossil analysis of ages long, long ago - that have allowed us to learn from prehistoric times the advent and happenings of life on earth.

This record is by no means complete but is does provide a peek into how it is that we exist.

The story of mankind begins in the tropical forests at least 65 million years ago.

By then the first primates, the order of mammals to which man belongs, had appeared.

These tiny creatures of the night gradually developed hands for gripping branches, preying upon insects and testing fruit for ripening.

This complex hand and brain co-ordination is believed to have increased the need for enquiry and expanding the brain.

Man's closest relatives are the apes, the next most intelligent primates, the gorilla, the chimpanzee and hominids may have shared a common ancestor until as recently as 5 million years ago.

Since then the various hominid types have not evolved in easy succession.

At times, different types have existed side by side, like separate branches of a tree that are grafted with the strain of a similar but not the same fruit.

Consequently, not all of the "fossil men" discovered by scientists are our direct ancestors.

There are gaps in the fossil record too and many things that fossilized bones simply cannot tell us.

Our bodies may still, as Charles Darwin once said, bear the indelible stamp of our lovely origin, but the exact route by which we have arrived at our present state is still something of a mystery.

For the continent of Africa specifically archaeological digs have provided prized fossils which have allowed Homo sapiens sapiens to appreciate our development.

In South Africa there are digs at Taung 1, Makapansgat 1, Kromdraai 1, Swartkrans 1 and Sterkfontein 1.

In Namibia there is an archaeological dig site at Apollo II Cave 5.

In Tanzia, Kenya and Ethiopia there are digs at Laetoli 1; 4a, Olduvan Gorge 1;2;3, Peninj 1, Baringo 1;3, Chesowanja 1, Keinapoi 1, Lothagam 1, West Turkana 1;3;4a, Kooki Fora 1;2;3, Omo 1;2;4a, Bodo 3;4a and Hadar 1.

In Algeria, Ternifine 3.

The numbers provided alongside these sites are part of a key to the description of the developmental stage of mankind below.

1.  The First Steps

The earliest known hominids were the australopithecines (southern apes) and are acknowledged to have taken the first steps and stood on their hind legs.

They lived between at least 4 and 1.5 million years ago.

Their fossils have been found along the East African Rift Valley and in several South African caves.

2. The Handyman – Homo habilis

About 2 million years ago the brains of one of the hominid line began to expand and their bodies developed sufficient manlike attributes for scientists to have dignified themselves with the name of Homo ("man").

These habilines had powerful hands capable of precision work.

They made efficient implements and engineered tools to make other tools such as hammerstones.

These habilines probably rarely hunted.

It is assumed that they might have used their tools to scrape meat from their carcasses as they shared them at communal campsites.

3. Out of Africa – Human Beings are ALL of AFRICA

The fossil record suggests that Homo habilis and earlier hominids were confined to Africa until about 1.6 million years ago.

From then on a new species of hominid knows as Homo erectus or "upright man", existed not only in Africa but also across Asia and possibly Europe.

Homo Erectus had a larger brain than other habilines, was greater still at tool making and had the ability to make fire.

Carnivores need larger expanses of territory per head than vegetarians.

This hunting habit is believed to explain the sudden migratory surge out of Africa.

Upright man pursued game into terrains too harsh for a tropical vegetarian.

4. Neanderthal Man

Homo erectus evolved to be Homo sapiens (4a). 

In Africa and perhaps in Asia, these people eventually evolved into modern man – but in Europe, the Near East and Central Asia they became Homo sapiens neanderthalensis (4b) – or, Neanderthal man.

The Neanderthal lived from 100 000 to 35 000 years ago, making tools, using fire, fashioning clothes and probably holding ceremonies.

Neanderthals are an off shoot of the main hominid line – they died out about 35 000 years ago during the last ice age.

5. The Communicator – Homo sapiens sapiens, "the wise, wise man"

From 35 000 years ago and by 30 000 years ago during the last ice age when a land bridge connected Siberia with Alaska people could walk most of the way from the mainland to Java – populating large parts of the Americas and Australasia.

Homo sapiens are so named to celebrate their crowning characteristic – intelligence that distinguishes them (meaning us) from Neanderthal.

Ironically, it is the writing or town planning, monumental architecture or a legal code, sophisticated farming or the working of metals that, as these remarkable feats were achieved, assisted to bring in a broad climatic band the favourable growth of crops.

Our ancient history reveals that Man is always on the move from Polynesians to Dorian, Huns, Vikings, Turks and Aryans, man have left in their wake of these epic migrations explorers, colonizers, founders of settlements and devastators.

Between the 16th and mid-19th Century black Africa lost almost 10 million of her inhabitants to the Americas.

Ships bearing Africans who were traded for goods started crossing the Atlantic in 1530, destined for the Spanish and Portuguese sugar plantations.

Profits were so great that the English, the French and the Dutch soon joined in.

A very dark period in world history as three side trade evolved, ships laden with European merchandise sailed for West Africa, goods were swapped for slaves, who were off loaded in the New World.

These ships returned to Europe.

In the mid-19th Century the slave trade was eradicated.

European expansion continued, triggering major population movements because workers were still needed.

Masses of Chinese emigrants moved to work in Southeast Asia and California.

The formation of "Chinatowns" were a knock-on result of this migration as far afield as San Francisco, Havana and London.

Indian migrants moved in great numbers to East and South Africa and to the Caribbean, to take advantage of new opportunities.

Many unskilled Asian labourers, went under long term, enforceable contracts.

Working on railroads, plantations and mines, they lived in conditions of virtual serfdom.

This indenture system, though much criticized, was not abolished until the 1920's.

Our recent modern history brought discovery as worldfinders explored Earth in the mid-14th Century.

Spain, Portugal, the English, the French and the Dutch.

By the 18th Century mapmakers were already producing a reasonable picture of the world we know today.

By 1914 habitable earth was almost entirely controlled by Europeans or people of European decent.

In total the European Exodus involved 50 million people- the highest population movement ever.

The process of decolonisation over much of the world proved that political control was not always essential to ensure profitable commerce.

As Benjamin Disraeli's shrewd remark reveals:  "colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are interdependent."

This remains the paradox of many new nations today:  although politically emancipated, they remain the clients of an industrial world and are still governed by ghost empires of influence.

The moral of this story?

As much as we do not like colonisation and as much as we would like to be able to claim a higher or a better "right" our history is what it is – there is no point in fooling ourselves because we all come from the same tree and we are all interdependent.

*Source: Atlas of the World RAND McNally Maps (Reader's Digest)