Africa provides a comprehensive and contigious time line of human development going back at least 7 million years. Africa, which developed the world's oldest human civilization, gave humanity the use of fire a million and half to two million years ago. It is the home of the first tools, astronomy, jewelry, fishing, mathematics, crops, art, use of pigments, cutting and other pointed instruments and animal domestication. In short Africa gave the world human civilization.
Millions of years ago human life started in Africa, Australopithecus aphaeresis and Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus robustus were all key rungs in the development of humanity. These fossils were found in East and South Africa (Azania). Some of the fossils may be as old as 5 million years. For example Australopithecus robustus fossils found in an East Turkana Kenya site were at least 4 million year old.
It is generally accepted that the Homo habilis were the first full fledge tool making ancestor of humans. The earliest archaeological evidence of toolmaking comes from the Koobi Fora section of East Turkana. These Homo habilis are believed to be at least 2.5 million years old. The name Homo habilis comes from the Leakeys. They found what they believed to be conclusive fossil evidence of the first humans in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and gave these ancestors that name called Homo habilis.. The Olduvai Gorge Homo habilis existed at least a million and quarter years ago
More important than tool making in human evolution is the mastery of fire. Nearly 2 million years ago early East Africans had mastered the use of fire. This was a revolutionary step in the development of humanity. This critical innovation insured the survival and spread of the species around the planet. It gave us an advantage over animal predators such as the big cats, hyenas and allowed human settlements in less accommodating climates. These people have been named Homo erectus by archaeologists. It is generally accepted that the final leap from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens sapiens as having occurred in Africa over two hundreds thousand years ago.
The Encyclopedia of World History describes the use of mtDNA found in fossils as a means of revealing the processes involved in this final leap. (The acronym mtDNA stands for mitochondrial DNA*.)
Molecular biologists like Alan Wilson and Rebecca Cann have studied the human family tree using this form of DNA, which is inherited through the female line without being diluted with paternal DNA. Thus, they argue, it provides a unique tool for studying ancestral populations. They compared mtDNA from Africans, Asians, Europeans, and Southeast Asians and found that the differences between them were small. They formed two groups: one was the Africans, the other the remainder. Wilson and Cann concluded that all modern humans derive from a primordial African population, from which populations migrated to the rest of the Old World with little or no interbreeding with existing archaic human groups. By calculating the rate of mtDNA mutations, they argue that archaic Homo sapiens evolved from Homo erectus in Africa by about 200,000 years ago. Then Homo sapiens sapiens, anatomically modern humans, appeared some 140,000 years ago. Mitochondrial DNA is still controversial, but there is some archaeological evidence from Africa that supports the biologists' scenario. Highly varied, early Homo sapiens populations flourished in sub-Saharan Africa between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago, some of them displaying some anatomically modern features. At the Klasies River Caves on the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa, anatomically modern human remains date to between 125,000 and 95,000 years ago. They are associated with sophisticated, versatile tool kits that were, if anything, superior to those used by the Neanderthals in Europe at the time.
Many scientists believe that Homo sapiens sapiens, modern humans, did indeed evolve in tropical Africa sometime after 150,000 years ago, as the geneticists argue. Ecologist Robert Foley has theorized that modern humans evolved in a mosaic of constantly changing tropical environments, which tended to isolate evolving human populations for considerable periods of time. Some groups living in exceptionally rich areas may have developed unusual hunting and foraging skills, using a new technology so effective that they could prey on animals from a distance with finely made projectiles. With efficient technology, more planning, and better organization of both hunting and foraging, our ancestors could have reduced the risks of living in unpredictable environments in dramatic ways.
*Mitochondrial is defined as: 1. A spherical or elongated organelle in the cytoplasm of nearly all eukaryotic cells, containing genetic material and many enzymes important for cell metabolism, including those responsible for the conversion of food to usable energy. It consists of two membranes: an outer smooth membrane and an inner membrane arranged to form cristae. 2. The cell organelle where much of cellular respiration takes place; the "power plant" of the cell. Mitochondria probably entered eukaryotes by an act of endosymbiosis, in which one simple cell was absorbed by another. Mitochondria contain their own DNA. It is by tracing the mitochondrial DNA, which individuals inherit only from their mothers, that genetic linkages are often traced (Sources: the Houghton Mifflin Company Medical and Science Dictionaries)
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