Physical Anthropology

An Overview of Prehistoric Africa



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Science has established by DNA the existence of a woman who lived 200,000 years ago in Africa, and through our maternal lineage, every person alive today converges back to this ancient woman. For many years it was thought that we are from the Neanderthal man, but scientific DNA tests prove they were a different type of being and they became extinct. According to these scientists, we are all African. What was our ancient homeland like? What were our ancestors like? What was prehistoric Africa like?
Although this "Eve," as she is called lived thousands of years ago, Africa dates back much further that. A complete fossil was found of a Gorgonopsid, a ferocious predator with both reptilian and mammalian characteristics that became extinct 250 million years ago. This skeleton was found intact and in one piece as though he had just toppled over and died.
Fossils of the first plants outside of the sea were discovered in South Africa. These date back 800 million years. South Africa boasts of the first dinosaurs. Africa is the cradle of creation and human life.
In a cave in South Africa, searchers found beads made of shells that dated back 75,000 years. The shells were all uniform in size and each had a small hole for stringing. They also found tools made of bone and chunks of inscribed Ochre. We can see that even in those days people liked jewelry and art. They also worked and hunted and needed tools. One of the bone tools was for spearing fish.
Mary Leaky and her team of archaeologists mad an incredible find. The foot prints of three hominids. Two were adults and they walked side by side. The other one a youth and he or she trailed on behind them. The prints were imbedded in volcanic ash mixed with mud. The cast footprints dried and three and a half million years later were discovered.
The British Museum in London has a display of stone, or rock tools found in Africa. Some date back over a million years. Included were chopping tools and two hand axes.
Paintings on cave walls in North Africa depict vibrant and vivid scenes of daily life. Paintings are of Buffalo, Rhinoceros, Elephant, Hippopotamus and animals that no longer exist. These caves painting give us a glimpse of prehistoric African culture. It was thought that Europe was the first place of growth in culture but as time goes by archaeologists find they were wrong and that culture really began in Africa.
The artifacts discovered in Blombos cave were made of the iron ore stone ochre. Pieces of ochre were ground and scraped flat and geometric designs carved into them. These designs showed that people were more like modern humans than science had thought. With modern techniques and as more finds are made, many of the old views of prehistoric life are changing.
Life must have been hard for them with giant and wild animals, the ice age, but they made it through and without them and their struggles we would not be here.
Ideas of man evolving from apes have changed a little after the discovery in 1998 in South Africa of a near-complete skeleton of an ape-man thought to be three million years old. Is this a distant cousin to man as some think? Will we ever truly know if man evolved from apes or if man was created as man and apes were created as apes? Just because we both walk upright proves nothing to me, but that is just my opinion.
Perhaps we did start out as human beings and not animals after all. At least we have one ancestor that walked upright and was a woman. Even though she only dates back to 200,000 years, we know that she was not an ape. At a time when there is so much conflict about race, ancient Africa has proven that we all come from the same woman, and we are all related to each other through these prehistoric roots.










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