- The Origin of Human Beings
- The Cultural and Economic Practices of Early Man
In the study of early man, we will seek to answer questions that human beings have always sought to answer about how they appeared on earth, whether they were created and where the universe came from.
A number of theories have been put forward to explain the origin of human beings.
- The creation theory.
- The mythical/ traditional theory
- The evolution theory
The Jews, Christians and Muslims recognize the creation story as narrated in the first book of bible and in Qur’an. That the whole universe was created by God. That God also created man, woman and all living things and all non-living creatures. Man was created in God’s own image and woman created to provide man with companionship.
Among African communities, there are myths about their origin all of them pointing to the fact that the first man was created by God.
Among the Agikuyu, their God (Ngai) created the first man, Gikuyu. He then provided him with a wife, Mumbi. He gave him land at Mugurwe wa Gathanga.
One of the myths among the Nandi state that the first two people, male and female came from the knees of a giant man, when the knees began swelling and later burst for the two to come out from each of the either knees.
Charles Darwin, an English man living between 1809 and 1882 questioned the acceptance of the creation theory. Through scientific expedition to South America and the pacific islands in 1831, he developed interest in fossils (remains of plants and animals found beneath the earth’s surface.) in 1859; he published his ideas in a book titled The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. The ideas enlisted instant battles from the Christian fraternity save for one supporter, Huxley.
Clearly the theory of evolution was not accepted but it helped to make people aware of the new ideas concerning the origin of man.
What is evolution?
Evolution can be defined as the process of change in living organisms over a number of years, frequently involving the beginning of new species from earlier species.
According to Charles Darwin, man transformed from simple life slowly over millions of years through environmental mutation, natural selection, isolation and adaptation.
- Mutation was a stage of abrupt change.
- Natural selection is an instinct by which the stronger species out compete the weaker for resources.
- Adaptation is where the surviving species isolate themselves from others as they adapt to new environment through body changes and technological changes e.g. ability to grow crops and make shelter.
Darwin’s theory of natural selection comprises the following points.
- All organisms or creatures are uniquely different and this uniqueness is based on heredity factors which an organism has from birth.
- Although many young organisms are produced, few manage to develop to maturity.
- The organisms that manage to grow to maturity and reproduce are those that are able to constantly adapt to the existing environment.
In view of the limited resources, even after mutation, Darwin argued that only the fittest organisms survive as the weak species become extinct. This theory is popularly known as ‘survival for the fittest’. According to Darwin, isolation and adaptation is the final stage in the evolution process. Having survived through mutation and natural selection, the merging species increase in number. This leads to search for basic needs and in the process a species may be isolated from the rest and then finally adapt to the new environment. The theory of evolution holds that Humans belong to the animal kingdom and that man has evolved over the years. Man is a primate just as apes like gorillas, chimpanzees and monkeys. However, man belongs to the family of hominidae, while apes belong to the family of pongidae.
Man according to Darwin developed over the years from his ape-like ancestors.
Evolution and adaptation of man
The earliest Mammals lived on trees for two reasons;
- There was more supply of food on trees such as insects, leaves and birds’ eggs
- Security. Animals were more secure from their enemies while up on trees
Man evolved from this kind of animals
Archaeological evidence points at East Africa as the cradle of mankind.
Reasons why East Africa is regarded as the place where man first evolved
- Evidence from archaeologists’ show that the earliest apes first evolved around lake and rift valley areas. And if man evolved from apes, then the first man must have appeared in east Africa.
- The savanna landscapes found in east Africa favored evolution while the conditions elsewhere (forests and deserts) Were unfavourable.
- The bones and weapons and tools which archaeologists are finding are proofs to this. These findings are widespread in Olduvai Gorge, Olorgesaillie, and Ngorongoro and around lakes of east Africa.
- The discovery of remains of early hominids and their material culture which form a pattern of human evolution prove this. E.g. we can trace the evolutionary process from Dryopithecus to Ramapithecus to Australopithecus to Homo habilis to Homo erectus to Homo sapiens.
Important archaeological sites found in East Africa
In Kenya; - Rusinga Island, Fort Ternan near Kericho, Kariandusi near Elementaita, Gambles cave, Olorgesaillie, Kobi For a near Lake Turkana, Hyrax Hill and Njoro River cave.
In Tanzania; - Olduvai Gorge, Eyasi Simila, Apis Rock and Garusi
In Uganda; - Nsongezi, Napak, Magosi, Paraa, Ishanga, Mweya and Nyabusora
In Ethiopia; - Omo River Valley and Hadar.
Over a long period of time, man’s ancestors lived in thick forests. Later about 15 million years ago, the forests transformed into savanna grasslands causing man’s ancestors to change both physically and mentally so as to cope with the new environment.
- The tail which no longer had any value in the savanna disappeared.
- Man became more upright as there were no more impeding vegetation as was the case of too much foliage and intertwining vegetation in the forests and also to reduce surface area onto which solar insolation had effect. These also enabled quicker movement.
- The leg and foot formation changed to enable the weight of the body to be supported and balance to be achieved while moving or at a standstill.
- Gradual use of front limbs (hands for holding objects) enabled man to make tools which made work easier. The limbs also found another role of protection from other predators.
As the forests disappeared, competition for food intensified and humans had to change their earlier eating habits. Some fossil evidence clearly give distinctive evidence of the break-off point between apes and hominids (mans ancestors.)
The changes which Homo sapiens underwent as a break-off from apes to modern man.
- The skull size of the early human beings became larger indicating bigger brains. For example, Australopithecus, who lived between 5 and 1 million years ago, had a brain capacity of 530cm3. Homo erectus who lived later on had an improved brain capacity of between 775 and 1225cm3.
- Their jaws and teeth became more powerful compared to earlier forms indicating their use in tearing and cutting tough fibres and even the need for defence as a weapon. The size of the jaws and teeth became smaller.
- They developed a refined speech as compared to earlier forms.
- They were taller with less hair on their body.
- The forearms and hands underwent some changes. They developed a thumb for grasping objects. Their arms and hands became shorter, more appropriate for an upright posture.
- Their leg and foot formation also changed. Their feet and toes were smaller than earlier hominids in order to support the weight of the rest of the body while motionless or mobile. The toes were no longer in need for holding onto branches.
From apes to homo sapien sapiens
Between 40 and 25 million years ago, the first apes appeared on earth. The first man (Austropithecus) appeared around 4.5 million years ago.
The following are the stages through which the evolution of man passed.
- Aegyptopithecus - An Early African Monkey
- Aegyptopithecus was reconstructed from a monkey like skull found at Fayum Depression in Egypt. He forms earliest evidence of probable man's ancestors.
- Its Teeth were those of a herbivore
- It had a Small, about 4kg and was named Egyptian ape.
- It was highly adapted to forest life.
- Had stereoscopic vision.
- It could jump skillfully from one tree to other using hands.
- It Dated 33 million years
- Dryopithecus Africanus (proconsul )
- Its Remains were found at Rusinga Island within Lake Victoria by Mary and Louis Leakey in 1948.
- Its Skull appearance was more close to modern man than to Aegyptopithecus.
- He had a quadrupedal movement like a chimpanzee.
- He had a Smooth forehead.
- He had long teeth like other animals. The shape of his teeth and jaws indicated that He ate fruits.
- It is his remains that strengthen the belief that east Africa was the first homeland of mankind.
- Kenyapithecus (Ramapithecus)
- He is believed to have appeared between 15 and 12 million years ago
- First remains found Fort Ternan in Kericho District, Kenya, in 1961 by Dr. Louis Leakey and Mary. Other fossils found at Samburu Hills, near Lake Baringo as well as in the Lake Turkana basin.
- The equivalent species found in the Siwalikis Hills in northern India near New Delhi was named Ramapithecus
- He had small canines and could occasionally walk on twos without falling.
- The creature was small and weighed 36kg with bigger brains than earlier hominids.
- Australopithecus (southern ape)
- By 4-2m years ago a series of species known as australopithecines begin to appear. Perhaps it was the earliest homid closer to modern man.
- The pelvis and leg were similar to that of modern humans.
- They were bipedal and this was important in defence, grasp of objects and vision of an impending danger from a distance.
- His Brain size was smaller than that of a human but larger than gorilla’s.
- He was one of the most hairy hominid that ever existed.
- He was Short but strong with a low forehead.
- Had large teeth and skulls
- His remains were first discovered at Taung in Botswana by Raymond Dart in 1924.
- The broken up skull found in East Africa at Olduvai Gorge in 1959 by Mary Leakey, was called Zinjanthropus- ‘Nut-Cracker man ‘since it had big jaws that suggest it kept on chewing.
- Other fossils found in South Africa, Omo River Valley, Laetoli in Tanzania, near lakes Turkana and Baringo in kenya and L Natron
- Four types of Australopithecines that have been identified
- Australopithecus Afarensis
- Australopithecus Anamensis
- Australopithecus africanus.
- Australopithecus Robustus
- Australopithecus Anamensis
- He is aged between 4.2 and 3.9 million years ago and is believed to be one of the oldest
- Evidence of his existence is obtained from the Reconstruction of Material consisting of 9 fossils from Kanapoi in Kenya and 12 fossils from Allia Bay in Kenya found by Dr. Meave Leakey, Dr. Allan Walker and the four fossil hunters (Kamoya Kimeu, Wambua Mangao, Nzube Mutiwa and Samuel Ngui.)
- The fossil remains (comprising a lower jaw) were named A. Anamensis in August 1995 in a leading British Scientific journal.
- He had relatively large canines.
- The homid was aged between 3.9 and 3.0 million years ago. Its Name is derived from Afar Depression in Ethiopia.
- He Had Apelike face and human-like teeth. He was small in stature and Bipedal, but Walked bent over, not fully upright.
- They had very small brains -Brain capacity from 375 to 500 cc – (Its Brain was the size of an orange.)
- They had a bony ridge over the eyes, a low forehead, a flat nose, and also they had no chin.
- Remains found at Laetoli in Tanzania and Tugen Hills in Baringo District.
- Australopithecus Africanus (A. Gracilis)
- A. africanus existed between 3 and 2.5 million years ago. A. africanus was slenderly built, or Gracile (Gracile means slender) with a height of 1.5m.
- Was significantly more like modern humans than A. Afarensis, with a larger brain and more humanoid facial features.
- Had large teeth, jaws and skull
- A. africanus has been found at only four sites in southern Africa — Taung (1924), Sterkfontein (1935), Makapansgat (1948) and Gladysvale (1992).
- Australopithecus Robustus
- He Lived between 1½ - 2mya in South Africa.
- He is the biggest and most recent Australopithecine. - weight 68kg. He had more robust skull, jaws, and teeth.
- He ate fruits, nuts and raw tubers- was apparently a vegetarian.
- His Remains were found primarily in cave deposits at Swartkrans and Kromdraai in South Africa.
- His Average brain size was about 530 cc
- The East African A.Robustus was named A. Boisei
- Homo habilis (“Handy Man”) - “man with ability”.
- He is the earliest known species of the genus Homo; that is, the first human species. He lived 2.5 -1.5 million years ago
- He was the First Homo specie to create and use stone tools for hunting and daily life. Homo habilis depicted the ability to make better tools than his predecessors. That is why he was referred to as man with ability.
- His Brain size was -500 -800 cc;-the Brain shape is more humanlike.
- He was capable of rudimentary speech.
- He was about 127 cm (5'0") tall, and about 45 kg (100 lb) in weight, although females may have been smaller
- His fossils were found in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania in 1964 by Dr. J. Leakey.
- His Remains were also found at Hadar and Omo River Valley in Ethiopia and kobi fora along L. Turkana by Benerd Ngeneo in 1972.
- Homo erectus (“Upright Man”)
- He was BIPEDAL- standing about 4-5 feet tall with a larger brain (700-1250cc). He lived between 2 million and 200,000 years ago.
- He was clever as illustrated by his ability to make Acheulian tools such as the hand axe which was used as an axe, knife or even as a scraper. He was the First hominid to invent and use fire.
- Their skeletons were larger and showed that they were quite heavily muscled
- They were omnivorous like many other early hominids.
- Only had hair on their head and back like are men that we have today
- Remains found in Hardar, Ethiopia where the skeleton of a female ‘Lucy’ were found.
- Other fossils were found near Nariokotone River on the north western shores of Lake Turkana by Kamoya Kimeu in 1984.
- Also at Olorgesaillie near Magadi, Isimila near Iringa in TZ and Tenerife in Algeria.
- The most famous Homo Erectus fossil was found in a cave in Zhoukoudian, China and became known as Peking Man/Java man
- Homo sapiens (“Wise Man” thinking man)
- Their Main difference with their hominid ancestors is their extreme intelligence–they were the smartest hominid that ever lived with a Brain capacity of 1000-1800cc
- They lived between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago
- They improved their way of life by making a variety of flint, bone, wood and stone tools (Microliths)
- They hunted, gathered and fished. Later on, they domesticated plants and animals
- Their Remains were found at Eliye Springs, Kanjera and Kanam in Kenya, Bodo and Omo River Valley in Ethiopia and Ngaloba in Tanzania.
Three sub-species of Homo sapiens existed;
- Rhodesian man
- The sub-species Was discovered in Zambia, hence the name Rhodesian man
- He had straight legs and walked with long strides.
- Rhodesian man’s Brains and skull were very similar to those of modern man.
- His Remains were found in Neander valley, Germany (1856). They Lived in caves and valleys
- He was 5 feet and 5 inches tall-much stronger, heavily built and more aggressive too.
- He Had very thick eyebrow ridges like the other hominids
- He Made clothes from animal skins. They would scrape animal fat so they can use the skin as clothing.
- They were probably the First humans to bury their dead. He was most likely the most intelligent hominid other than modern humans.
- He was a nomad, gathering and hunting deer, wild pigs and wild sheep.
- Their weapons were used to impale animals; therefore, to kill them, they had to approach the animal and get very close. This was dangerous and probably caused injuries and even fatalities.
- Communication was key in hunting because they had to work as a team.
- They had the ability to use complex speech; however, their sentences were probably basic. Instead of painting on cave walls they painted their faces.
- Other remains were found in Asia in France, Belgium, Gibraltar, Italy and former Yugoslavia.
- They became extinct about 30,000 years ago.
- Homo sapiens Cro-Magnon
- He was almost identical to modern humans although quite muscular and taller. Had long, low skull and a wide face, a sharp, rising forehead, bushy eyebrows and prominent chins
- They had a big brain capacity and had very complex thinking
- He was hunter-gatherer, painter and lived in caves
- He knew how to make clothes
- His Fossil remains were found in Western Europe. Their skeletons still remain in France today
- They became extinct around 10,000 years ago
- Rhodesian man
- Homo sapiens sapiens
- Homo sapiens sapiens are modern day humans. They evolved about 50,000 years ago.
- They have big brains and a more advanced faculty for curiosity and intelligence
- They have a large brain capacity. They do not just think, they plan ahead, make accurate forecasts, and study the star and the galaxies
- They have made inventions that have made life more comfortable.
- They are Around 5 feet 6 inches tall and Walk fully upright
- They have Minimal hair on our bodies (replaced by clothing)-We have clothes that are made from brands, factories, we also sew or knit our own clothing.
The growing knowledge of genetic structure and functions has enabled human beings to clone animals using genes obtained from existing animals, thereby producing offsprings that looks exactly like the original e.g. the work of Dr. Wilmut Ian at the Roslin Institute of Edinburgh, Scotland that led to the first cloned sheep named dolly. Scientists are making attempts to even clone humans. More recent discoveries of early man include the Toumai found in Chad in 2002 dating about 6 to 7 mya in 2000, another discovery was made in Baringo, Kenya (millennium man) and is believed to date 6mya.
The discovery was made by Martin Pickford and Eustace Gitonga of the National Museums of Kenya.
It has been hypothesized modern humans, using superior technology and more efficient adaption, out competed other hominid species to quickly emerge as the only surviving hominid species on the planet. Though we feature much diversity in appearance, these differences are minor compared to our biological similarities/all human beings are quite closely related. Many of our physical differences (skin, color, hair color, etc.) are relatively recent adaptations to local environment conditions. Evolutionary forces such as genetic drift have also played a role in our creating such variation as well.
Biologists and anthropologists classified humans into three different groups based on physical characteristics.
- Negroids, found in Africa.
- Caucasians found in Europe
- Mongoloids found in Asia,
Modern genetics has revealed that these categories make very little sense biologically since modern races are derived from a common stock and the different races are able to interbreed. There are also no differences in intelligence among all races of mankind.
The term “race” has traditionally been used by scientists as the equivalent of the subspecies concept when classifying humans.
What is culture?
Culture is the way of life of a people-Customs, language and social institutions The things that early humans made and used formed their material culture.
Early man’s culture can be understood through study of Stone Age or Paleolithic periods
What is Stone Age?
This refers to the early period of human history when man’s tools and weapons were mainly made of stone and to some extend – wood and bone
There are three Stone Age periods
- Old stone age- Paleolithic period- 4,500,000 to 50,000years
- Middle stone age- Mesolithic period-50,000-15,000 years.
- New Stone Age – Neolithic period- 15,000- 1,500 years
“Paleolithic” -> “Old Stone” Age- 4,500,000 – 50,000 years ago. The Paleolithic is the longest of all stone ages, covering roughly 2 million years. The hominid species who lived side by side were Australopithecus, Homo habilis and Homoerectus.
Early Stone Age Tools
The hominids Made tools from stone.
The Tool Traditions was called Oldowan tools / pebble tools. The tools were named after Olduvai Gorge where they were found. They were made by Australopithecus and Homo erectus. They were also known as pebble tools because they were made of stones.
Among the finds at Olduvai were the chopper, fist hatchet (core tools) and several flake tools. Such tools were also found at Kobi Fora near Lake Turkana, Omo River Valley in Ethiopia, and Kafu Valley in Uganda, Shaba province in Zaire and in Algeria, Tunisia and morocco. In Kenya, the tools were found at sites in kariandusi, Olorgesaillie, Kilombe, Chesowanja, Mtongwe, Isenya and Lewa DownsAustralopithecus “Southern Ape”. They didn’t have the intelligence to make sophisticated tools, so they may have made tools out of bones that they found Australopithecus afarensis mostly used tools that they found or that nature had created, example was a stick, which they stuck into a termite mound, then the termites clung to it letting the ape pull out the stick covered in food. He is however also credited for making Oldowan tools.
Homo habilis and the Oldowan Tradition
They made stone tools for chopping, scraping, and cutting. Making of Choppers (lower left) involved knapping a few flakes off the core. Both cores and flakes were used. The Knapper could strike a spherical piece of stone until Flake falls off opposite side. The Tool would then be flipped over and procedure repeated. Several blows would create a cutting edge requirements reflect Intelligence, Planning, foreknowledge of design and Knowledge of breakage pattern of rock. There must also be Hand-eye coordination.
The second phase of the Old Stone Age was marked by tools called Acheulian tools, named after the site of St Acheul in France. Others found in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In Kenya, the tools were found at Kariandusi, Olorgesaillie, Kilombe, Chesowanja, Mtongwe, Isenya and Lewa Downs. They were made by Homoerectus.
Homo erectus and the Acheulian tool technology.
Signature tool: a well-designed hand axe and cleavers
The Hand axe had multiple uses, from cutting, skinning, scraping animal skins, digging and sharpening bone and wood.
Characteristics of Acheulian hand axe
- It was Bifacial: both sides were knapped
- Symmetrical in breadth
- Shaped to a point on one end
- The edge is thin and sharp
- Broad end is curved, but edge is still sharp.
Process of Manufacturing Acheulian Hand axes
Dozens of flakes were removed from the core, from 25 to 75. Each flake blow must be precisely positioned. The Core must be turned over again and again to maintain symmetry and to keep edge straight. All the exterior rind (cortex) was removed. It was a demanding task-The hand axe was Symmetrical and finely shaped.
Old Stone Age-Hunting and Gathering
The early Stone Age people lived in small groups and were able to hunt for food using sharpened rocks and sticks. They used simple hunting methods of chasing wild animals and throwing stones at them. They also made traps by digging large pits on the paths used by animals. They ate raw meat from small animals like lizards and rodents
Women gathered edible fruits, eggs and roots- had a balanced diet.
The Old Stone Age-Shelter and Clothing
Humans during this period found shelter in caves and tree-tops.
Their bodies were hairy enough to keep them warm- lack of clothing was therefore bearable during this period. Moreover, the savannahs were also warm enough.
They also preferred the grasslands because they provided them with the much needed water and food. The Australopithecus had a very small brain and that limited the actions they could do. The Australopithecus were very hairy so they didn’t need any clothes. Australopithecus diet was mostly made up of fruits and vegetables they found. If Australopithecus found a dead animal it would scavenge of it but the Australopithecus afarensis couldn’t cook the meat and kill the germs.
Mesolithic “middle Stone” Age- 200,000– 10,000 years ago.
They period was characterized by superior brains and ability of Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. Great improvements were witnessed.
Signature tool; Sangoan tool made using Lavallois method. The tool was named after Sango Bay site on L. Victoria-Tz
The Lavallois technology
It involved using cores of smaller stones to hit bigger ones. The tool maker would draw outline of flake on stone module and Strike out flakes and blades of desired shape. The rock would be prepared beforehand to control how rock breaks when struck. The flakes and blades were then trimmed into a variety of knives, scrapers, spear points, choppers and daggers. Also Mousterian tools (specialized stone tools and weapons) were made.
Tang- the first tool with a handle was invented in this period- 40,000 years ago in northern Africa. Fire was also another important tool invented by Homo erectus and he used it as follows
- For warmth at night, lighting, to cook roots and roast meat, for hunting (bushfires), tool-making to harden tips, means of communication, food preservation
- It also enabled hominids to migrate out of savannah
Mesolithic - Food and Clothes
Homo erectus was considered the first true hunters. Because of better tools (Hand axe), fire and axes, they could hunt larger game such as deer, rhinos, pigs, elephants; buffaloes etc. and cook their food. People learnt to wear animal skins and make waist-belts and necklaces. They also painted themselves with red ochre and oil.
Mesolithic - Shelter
Man used identifiable shelter. An example was found at Orangia in South Africa. Man also used rock shelter (rocks scooped out to make hollows).
Later man lived in caves with entrance covered with animal skins to keep wind and rain away (e.g. Matupi Cave in Zaire and Gambles cave near Nakuru.
Mesolithic - Language and Rock Art
Families lived in small groups for security reasons. There were distinct languages to enhance communications. Rock paintings-Pictures of animals were painted on walls and rocks. Examples of Cave paintings were left behind at Kondoa and singida areas in north Tanzania and at Apollo II cave in S.A. This pictures signified man’s believe in magic (arrows piercing animals he hoped to kill)
There was efficient group organization as evidenced by the ability to carry out large-scale hunting. Language invention further strengthened the social bonds and cultures of early man
Neolithic “New Stone” Age- 15,000 – 4,000 years ago
This period was marked with the Emergence of Homo sapiens and homo sapien sapiens.
The Neolithic Tools
Man became a Very skilled toolmaker-they made tools known as microliths- (small piece of sharp stone tool). For example, a crescent or a lunate which had a straight sharp cutting edge and a curved blunted back. Their weapons include stone axes, knives, spears, harpoons, wooden bows, and sharp, stone tipped arrows, hooks, needles, and bone fish hooks. NEANDERTHALS were the first to create the pointed tip on hunting spears and harpoons
The Neolithic Shelter
Earlier sapiens used caves as their homes instead of building one. Later, they made permanent homes that looked like tents or tepees, out of tree branches, grass, mammoth bones, and animal skins. They used or made some sort of paint to use on their cave paintings.
Food and Agriculture
Man domesticated plants and animals though he continued to hunt and gather. Man changed as from Nomadic lifestyle to settled stationary lifestyle; a.k.a.sedentary. Population also increased due to balanced diet and adequate food
The Neolithic Government
Due to settled life and improved settlement, rules and laws were set up as a basis of government. Some people also specialized in leadership, religious activities as well as making of crafts.
The Neolithic Religion
Man’s language and religious beliefs developed as a result of depending on natural forces like rain. They began to ponder over issues like life and death. Evidence is found at Hyrax Hill and Njoro river Cave where human fossil remains were found buried with items such as tools and seeds or food. The practice of burying someone with his possessions implied a belief in life after death. Neanderthals were the first to bury their dead. They also seemed to have a conception of an afterlife as shown by the actual burial site at La Ferrassie, France, with seven tombs including a man, a woman and several children’s graves lying side by side.
The Neolitich Art and Craft
Humans specialized in crafts such as basketry, pottery and later smelting. Evidenced by this horse’ head carving to the righ