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Africa history music wildlife

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© Lonely Planet Publications
33

History
African history is a massive and intricate subject. What follows is only intended as a general overview. It’s just to give you a taste of the world-shaking
events that have shaped the continent’s history, from the early men and
women who left their footsteps in volcanic ash to the liberation of Nelson
Mandela, and a whole lot of wars, conquests, civilisations and revolutions
in between. You’ll find more detailed histories in each of the individual
country chapters.

HUMAN ORIGINS & MIGRATIONS
You’ve probably heard the claim that Africa is ‘the birthplace of humanity’.
But before there were humans, or even apes, or even ape ancestors, there was...
rock. Africa is the oldest and most enduring landmass in the world. When
you stand on African soil, 97% of what’s under your feet has been in place
for more than 300 million years. During that time, Africa has seen pretty
much everything – from proto-bacteria to dinosaurs and finally, around five
to 10 million years ago, a special kind of ape called Australopithecines, that
branched off (or rather let go of the branch), and walked on two legs down
a separate evolutionary track.
This radical move led to the development of various hairy, dim-witted
hominids (early men) – Homo habilis around 2.4 million years ago, Homo
erectus some 1.8 million years ago and finally Homo sapiens (modern humans)
around 200,000 years ago. Around 50,000 years later, somewhere in Tanzania
or Ethiopia, a woman was born who has become known as ‘mitochondrial
Eve’. We don’t know what she looked like, or how she lived her life, but we do
know that every single human being alive today (yup, that’s EVERYONE) is
descended from her. So at a deep genetic level, we’re all still Africans.
The break from Africa into the wider world occurred around 100,000 years
ago, when a group numbering perhaps as few as 50 people migrated out of
North Africa, along the shores of the Mediterranean and into the Middle
East. From this inauspicious start came a population that would one day
cover almost every landmass on the globe.
Around the time that people were first venturing outside the continent,
hunting and gathering was still the lifestyle of choice; humans lived in communities that rarely exceeded a couple of hundred individuals, and social
bonds were formed to enable these small bands of people to share food resources and hunt co-operatively. With the evolution of language, these bonds
blossomed into the beginnings of...
© Lonely Planet Publications
African history is a massive and intricate subject. What follows is only in-
tended as a general overview. It’s just to give you a taste of the world-s haking
events that have shaped the continent’s history, from the early men and
women who left their footsteps in volcanic ash to the liberation of Nelson
Mandela, and a whole lot of wars, conquests, civilisations and revolutions
in between. You’ll find more detailed histories in each of the individual
country chapters.
HUMAN ORIGINS & MIGRATIONS
You’ve probably heard the claim that Africa is ‘the birthplace of humanity’.
But before there were humans, or even apes, or even ape ancestors, there was...
rock. Africa is the oldest and most enduring landmass in the world. When
you stand on African soil, 97% of what’s under your feet has been in place
for more than 300 million years. During that time, Africa has seen pretty
much everything – from proto-bacteria to dinosaurs and finally, around five
to 10 million years ago, a special kind of ape called Australopithecines, that
branched off (or rather let go of the branch), and walked on two legs down
a separate evolutionary track.
This radical move led to the development of various hairy, dim-witted
hominids (early men) – Homo habilis around 2.4 million years ago, Homo
erectus some 1.8 million years ago and finally Homo sapiens (modern humans)
around 200,000 years ago. Around 50,000 years later, somewhere in Tanzania
or Ethiopia, a woman was born who has become known as ‘mitochondrial
Eve’. We don’t know what she looked like, or how she lived her life, but we do
know that every single human being alive today (yup, that’s EVERYONE) is
descended from her. So at a deep genetic level, we’re all still Africans.
The break from Africa into the wider world occurred around 100,000 years
ago, when a group numbering perhaps as few as 50 people migrated out of
North Africa, along the shores of the Mediterranean and into the Middle
East. From this inauspicious start came a population that would one day
cover almost every landmass on the globe.
Around the time that people were first venturing outside the continent,
hunting and gathering was still the lifestyle of choice; humans lived in com-
munities that rarely exceeded a couple of hundred individuals, and social
bonds were formed to enable these small bands of people to share food re-
sources and hunt co-operatively. With the evolution of language, these bonds
blossomed into the beginnings of society and culture as we know it today.
The first moves away from the nomadic hunter–gatherer way of life came
between 14,000 BC and 9500 BC, a time when rainfall was high and the
Sahara and North Africa became verdant. It was in these green and pleasant
lands that the first farmers were born, and mankind learned to cultivate crops
rather than following prey animals from place to place.
By 2500 BC the rains began to fail and the sandy barrier between North
and West Africa became the Sahara we know today. People began to move
southwest into the rainforests of Central Africa. By this time a group of
people speaking the same kind of languages had come to dominate the
landscape in Africa south of the Sahara. Known as the Bantu, their popula-
tions grew as they discovered iron-smelting technology and developed new
agricultural techniques. By 100 BC, Bantu peoples had reached East Africa;
by AD 300 they were living in southern Africa, and the age of the African
empires had begun.
History
‘The break
from Africa
into the
wider world
occurred
when a
group num-
bering as few
as 50 people
migrated
along the
shores of
the Mediter-
ranean and
into the
Middle East’
33
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