Africa: Human Evolution

Early Man

The earliest known evidence anywhere in the world of the existence of man and the appearance of human civilization comes from Africa: the cradle of civilization and the origin of human society. In order to understand Africa's place in human evolution, one must first examine the geography of Africa. Geography is a great factor in history and nowhere is this more powerfully illustrated than in Africa.

A landscape of tropical rainforest and winding rivers that existed 40 million years ago, in what is today the Sahara region of western Egypt, was the cradle of the primates from whom humanity has evolved. Despite the fact that this area of Africa is perceived to be the true cradle of humanity, not many fossils can be found. This again goes back to geography.

Unlike the rest of the continent, East Africa transformed through faulting and volcanic activity between 23 and 5 million years ago. This was also true for South Africa. Because of this, these areas are characterized by rift valleys and highlands.

These variations of height provided a range of environments in which living creatures, particularly early man, could flourish and survive such climatic changes as the ice age. The volcanic activity and the creation of soft new rock helped the discovery and dating of prehistoric remains. It is for these reasons, eastern and southern Africa provide a continuous and accurate record of human evolution.

Early Man
Olduvai gorge in East Africa. Copyright IHO.

 Africa in History
 Human Evolution

 North Africa  

 Kingdoms of the South
 Trading Empires
 West Africa

Slave Trade