THE CRADLE OF MANKIND (4,400,000 BC-50, 000 BC):
In 1911, Prof. Kattwinkel, a German entomologist, fell down a deep narrow gorge when he was seeking after an unusual butterfly. This place was Olduvai Gorge found in Serengeti. The fall was not easy, but the scientist in away was able to save his life. Then he raised his ayes, and only a scientist would have appreciated that the rocky wall was an extraordinary fossil bed. This changed man’s conception about his own origin. To clearly tell the history of Kenya, we must start from the very beginning up to the dawn of mankind.
The great names of scientists whose pioneering theories about the evolution of species and natural selection advanced the progress of a revolution in the 19th century Victorian science include; Larmarct, Darwin, Bladlace, Huxley, Haeckel and others. This is because they put forward an opinion that man and apes had a similar progenitor, in contrast to the biblical view of one creation.
Ernst Haeckel assumed the existance of an ape-man, known as pithecanthropus, who could have lived in a sunken continent known as Lemuna,, near India.
The search for the “missing link’ between man and ape filled the mind of Eugene Dubois a Dutch anthropologist who brought the first indication for the existance of pithecanthropus when he found out the man from Java, or pithecanthropus erectus in 1893. The trends of that time, relying on this primeural indication and the Lemuria hypothesis, found the origin of mankind in the African continent. Meanwhile, Kattwinked acted his popular stumble, however it would cease to be until 1924 when Darwin’s theory which discovered the “cradle of mankind” in Africa begun to obtain experimental support. That year, Dant and Broom dug out in South Africa, the fossil remains of a pre-hominid, Australopithecus africanus, whose age was approximated to be 2 million years, one million older than Dubois’ape man. New discoveries begun to outline the geneology of this new genus, of which its reasonable role as an ancestor of modern man continued generating discussions during the first thirty years of the 20th Century.
In 1931, Dr. Louis Leakey and Mary his fiancée who were Kenyans but of British origin, tried a comprehensive study of the Olduvai site, which resulted into the finding of 400skull fragments of a pre-hominid, Zinjanthropus boisei, in 1959. The adjacent remains showed that Zinjanthropus was really a modified primate, with the ability to carve stone for tool making. In 1961, the age of Zinjanthropus which was later re-classified within the Australopithecus genus was dated in 1.75 million years. This was the first indication for the existance of pre-hominids in East Africa, followed by another one of great importance: that is, in 1960, Leakey together wife Mary discovered the remains of Homohabilis, a modified hominid with the capacity of carving stone axes, whose age was approximated to 1.4 million years.
The 70s and 80s saw the advancement in the progress of palaoanthropological knowledge. Mary Leakey described footprints and fossils of 3.6million old hominids that inhabited the Laetoli area, adjacent to Olduvai.
On the other side, Richard her son, working together with Bernard Ngeneo the Kenyan paleonthologist, discovered the Kooli For a site near Lake Turkana, finding the remains of Homohabilis dated 2 million years ago.
Further in the North, in Ethiopia, Don Johanson together with Tim white dug up a skeleton of a creature which they called Lucy, a female Australopithecus 3.5 million years old, which became the most ancient species of Australopithecus known-so far,
Australopithecus afarensis Ten years after, I 1984, Richard Leakey succeeded in a nearly complete reconstruction of a Homo erectus skeleton, the popular “Turkana boy” a 1.6 million year old hominid, more modified following his cranial capacity and formerly considered a possible direct ancestor of Homosapiens, the modern man. Dubois Pithecanthropus was assimilated to the same species.
While new australopithecine species were described and the species were beginning to come into place, research enabled to draw a view of a wide area of land, which was yet diffuse.
Until little over one million year ago, hominids and pre-hominids were limited to Southern and Eastern Africa. The two main evolutionary different branches,, that is Australopithecus and Homo, existed together until Australopithecus the more primitive stopped existing.
A few pioneering Homo erectus clans left their own country and went to Asia one million years back. During these first movements,, one Homo erectus went to the sides of river Solo, in java, only to die and lastly be found, one million after, by Eugene Dubois who was very interested in learning about many different things and also an entrepreneurial scientist.
Chronology of human evolution: More current discoveries keep the thrill, pushing the origin of pre hominids far back in history. In1994, Tim white and Berhane Asfaw found in 4.4 million years remains of a new species in Ethiopia, known as Ardipithecus ramidus. After one year, at the Turkana site, Richard’s wife Meave Leaky together with Alan Walker found what is now the oldest of the Australopithecus, that is A. anamensis, an elderly man 4.2 million years old considered to be the ancestor of A. afarensis. In November 2000, a French-Kenyan team led by doctor Martin Pickford together with dostor Brigitte Senut discovered in Kapsomin, in the Tugen Hills at Baringo district, the remains of fossilizod hominids in rock layers 6 million years old.
About the origins of modern man, Homo sapiens, our ancestors existed some 100,000-140,000 years back and inhabited the planet. However, our fore parents’ biography is not complete at all. Albeit the study of fossil remains finds today an extreme useful support in molecular biology, the book of mankind’s history still has many empty pages.
Homo erectus who disappeared 100,00 years back and was judged as a direct predecessor of man in the past, seems to be truly a blind alley of a previous species called Home ergaster who was a real ancestor of ours. This species was perhaps a precursor of the Europeans H. heidelbergensis “Heidlberg man” which disappeared some 200,000 years back, and his successor H. neanderthalensis or “Neanderthal man” , who existed together with Homosapiens and became extinct only 30,000 years back. But the evolutionary line between our grand father H. ergaster and us is a matter of discussion among the scientiofic community, that holds two different theories.
Models for the origin of Homo sapiens: The first evidences supported the hypothesis known as “Out of Africa”, also called “Mitocondrial Eve”, “Noah’s Ark” or “Garden of Eden”, after which all modern people have our ancestorship in a small African population that existed 200,000 years back, and of which only one maternal lineage survived. Therefore, al of us would be from a lineage of one common mother, whose inheritance we keep in our mitochondrial DNA, the genetic sequences that is in the cellular part which supplies energy, that only the mother gives out to all her children. Movement of the descendants of this primeval “Eve” towards Asia and Europe would have culminated in the disappearance of the already existing local groups, some of them include the last Asian populations of Homo erectus and the European H. neander thalensis, successor to H. heidel bergensis.
Opposite to the “mitochondrial Eve” theory, the extremely useful findings in Atapuerea Spain) have given support to the rival model, known as “Multiregional’ or “Candelebra”.
According to this hypothesis, the movements of numbers of Homo erectus in Asia and Europe developed distinctive anatomical characteristics that remained for sometime, what is referred to as “regional continuity” and what would have originated the differences in races among day-to-day human numbers. More than thousands of years, these different groups developed in parallel to a single form we refer today as Homo sapiens. The contribution of the Atapuerca discoveries to this model is based on the following: –
In this mountain range of the Burgos territory, the Spanish research team dug up fossils which were assigned to a novel species, H. antecessor, whose oldest remains dated the earliest European Homo 780,000 years back. If as is accepted, H. antecessor was a direct ancestor of all European Homo species, us inclusive, then these first inhabitants would not have disappeared upon being affected by Homo sapiens from Africa, for example the “mitochondrial Eve” theory would defend, but they would have rather developed independently towards our species whereas Asian and African group did the same.
In this exciting context, and despite we are getting closer to meet our ancestors, paleonthropologists have not yet succeeded to clear which species can be referred to as the common fore parents to man and modern apes. Yet currently, this primeval man-ape sleeps somewhere under the African soil, in a continent which is some way still “territory unexplored