Africa has always been known as the “Cradle of Mankind” and the land of great ancient civilizations. From Egypt to South Africa, passing by Sudan, Kenya, and the Congo, the African continent has never remained on the fringe of archaeological and prehistoric research. With its rich archeological sites, Africa is always considered in the evolutionist and diffusionist theories as a place of potential archeological discoveries.
Here are the top five discoveries in the last few years.
Morocco: Oldest Fossils of Homo sapiens Found in Morocco (2017)
An international team has just discovered the oldest Homo sapiens in Jebel Irhoud in Morocco. A team of archeologists led by Professor Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany) and Professor Abdelouahed Ben-Ncer of the National Institute of Archeology and Heritage of Rabat made the discovery.
Genetic data on current populations and paleontological findings unambiguously state that Africa is the place of origin of our species, Homo sapiens, as fossils discovered at African archeological sites date back 300,000 years ago.
According to researchers, North Africa has long been neglected in debates surrounding the origins of our species, and the spectacular discoveries of Jbel Irhoud demonstrate, in fact, the close connection between the Maghreb and the rest of the African continent at the time of the emergence of Homo sapiens.
“We have grown accustomed to thinking that the cradle of modern humanity can be located in East Africa 200,000 years ago, but our work shows unambiguously that Homo sapiens were probably already present on the whole of the African continent 300,000 years ago. Long before Africa’s departure from Homo sapiens, there was an ancient dispersion inside Africa,” says paleoanthropologist, Jean-Jacques Hublin.
Speaking to Africa.com, Moroccan Researcher and Professor of History and Civilization at Hassan II University in Casablanca, Jalal Zine El Abidine said that the discovery of the oldest Homo sapiens in the world will have a positive impact on scientific research in Morocco and Africa, especially archaeological research, where it will change many theories and concepts about the history of humanity, especially the theories and concepts of modern human evolution. “It refutes the theory that modern man has evolved in one place in Africa, but posits the hypothesis of this evolution throughout the entire African continent, not just its east,” says Dr. Zine El Abidine.
The discovery shows the effectiveness of research centers in Morocco, especially the National Institute of Archeology and Heritage, which has partnerships with international scientific institutions specializing in anthropology and archeology.
South Africa: The Discovery of Homo Naledi, An Ancient Human Species (2017)
An ancient human species, previously unknown, was discovered in a cave in South Africa, where the bones of 15 hominids were exhumed. The fossils were found in a deep and extremely difficult-to-maneuver cave near Johannesburg on the very rich archaeological site known as the “Cradle of Humanity,” and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“I am delighted to present a new species of the human race,” said Lee Berger, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. In 2013 and 2014, scientists exhumed more than 1,550 bones belonging to at least 15 individuals, including babies, young adults, and the elderly. All fossils have a homogeneous morphology, but have not yet been dated. The new species was baptized Homo naledi and classified in the genus, Homo, to which modern man belongs.
What was it like? “He had a tiny brain the size of an orange and a very slender body,”said John Hawks, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He measured an average of 1.5 meters and weighed 45 kilos. His hands “suggest that he had the ability to handle tools, his fingers were extremely curved, while it is virtually impossible to distinguish his feet from those of a modern man,” a statement said.
The mixture of characteristics of Homo naledi underscores, once again, the complexity of the human family tree and the need for further research to understand the history and ultimate origins of our species. This discovery could assist in allowing researchers to learn more about the transition 2 million years ago between the primitive Australopithecus and the primate of the genus, Homo, our direct ancestor.
Ethiopia: The Discovery of An Old Jawbone Ages the Human Race 400,000 Years (2013)
The human race would be at least 2.8 million years old. This is the main conclusion drawn from the discovery of a mandible with teeth in Ethiopia. It was described as the oldest fossil of the genus, Homo, never discovered, which repels its 400,000-year-old origins.
The discovery sheds new light on the emergence of the genus, Homo, to which man belongs. This valuable fossil is an excellent example of a species transition in a key period of human evolution. It was found in 2013 in an excavation area, Ledi-Geraru, in the Afar region of Ethiopia by an international team of researchers.
This small piece of bone, ornamented with five teeth, two premolars and three molars, was spotted by the Ethiopian palaeontologist, Chalachew Seyoum, of Arizona State University.
The place of this discovery has always been described as dry, Savannah type, which inspires a scenario in regard to the history of East Africa: Pre-humans have left the jungle to discover the Savanna. They were straightened up, their brain developed, and their hands became skillful.
Kenya: Discovery of the Oldest Stone Tools in the World (2015)
It is a small stone that changed everything. It was described in 2015 as the greatest archeological discovery after the famous “Australopithecus Lucy” fossil was unearthed in 1974 by Yves Coppens.
This small stone tool, preciously preserved in the archeology laboratory of the National Museum of Nairobi, is a revolution. Found with about a hundred other prehistoric tools in the Turkana Lake area of Northern Kenya, it overturns all that has been known so far in the lives of early men as it dates back 3.3 million years.
The team of researchers led by archaeologist, Sonia Harmand of Stony Brook University, concluded that our ancestors were crafting tools a hundred-thousand years before the arrival of the genus, Homo.
Egypt: Six Mummies Discovered In The Tomb Of The Time Of The Pharaohs (2017)
In a 3500-year-old tomb near the city of Luxor, Egyptian archaeologists discovered eight mummies, colorful wooden sarcophagi, and more than a thousand funerary statues. These artefacts were found near the Valley of the Kings, which is thought to be the main place of burial for pharaohs and noblemen.
In a tomb that dates to the 18th Dynasty and appears that it was re-used under the 21st Dynasty, Egyptian experts spent several days around broken and well-preserved wooden sarcophagi decorated with characters and pharaonic patterns in bright colors of yellow and red, as well as black and blue. Inside, mummies were wrapped in white linen blackened by the ages.
“It’s an important discovery, and it’s not over,” says Minister of Antiquities, Khaled al-Anani, during a visit to the site. “There are about six mummies, but there are other fragments indicating that there could be more in the future,” says al-Anani.
Archaeological research has always proved fruitful in Egypt. The local authorities have given several archeological research projects the green light with the hope of finding new discoveries in the area. In March, a team of Spanish archaeologists discovered another vast ancient tomb near the city of Aswan.