• Africa is the cradle of mankind. Millions of years ago, human life started in the motherland and civilisation was born in the continent. Engineered history has at a time painted the false picture that Africa was (and still is) a dark continent, devoid of civilisation yet this is where it all started. Author, Robin Walker’s book, When We Ruled has some very interesting facts about Africa which prove not all is at it seems. Here we track through seven of them as we explore just how big a role Africa has played in the development of the modern world. To find out more about When We Ruled, visit this site.

    Africa, the mother of humanity

    The bones of an early member of our species excavated from Ethiopia's Kibish rock formation. (Credit: John Fleagle)  

    The Omo human remains, named after the area they were found in Ethiopia were at a point thought to have been 130,000 years old but reanalysis in the early 2000s determined the fossils were actually around 195,000 years old. Previously, the oldest known traces of the Homo Sapien species had been dated to around 160,000 years. All this means humanity must have originated from Africa. Is that why some people say we are all Africans? It could be. Walker also says, “The oldest known ancestral type of humanity is thought to have been Australopithecus ramidus, who lived at least 4,4 million years ago.”

    Using this “Africa is the cradle of mankind” argument, Africa effectively becomes the mother of all humanity.

    Africa, the mother of fishing

    Walker records findings made in the Katanda region of Democratic Republic of Congo which were “a finely wrought series of harpoon points, all elaborately polished and barbed. Also uncovered was a tool, equally well crafted, believed to be a dagger”. The findings were evidence of an early fishing based culture. Fishing therefore most likely started in Africa about 90,000 years or more ago. The first group of people who left Africa around 60,000 years ago are said to have been following schools of fish along the African coast.

    Africa, the mother of mining

    43,000 years ago, it seems Africans had already been mining. If the hematite mine found in Swaziland is anything to go by, Africa was already mining no less than 43,200 years ago. Mines of similar age have been found in Hungary but are believed to have been mining sites used by Neanderthals.

    Africa, the mother of arithmetic

    Front and rear of Ishango Bone in the Museum of Natural Sciences, Brussels

    The earliest numerical record found to date is said to be around 37,000 years old. It was found in the Lebombo Mountain, between Swaziland and South Africa. The artefact was a fossilized piece of baboon bone with 29 notches evenly spaced to represent a lunar calendar. Another pattern of tallies was also found around 20,000 years ago on the shores of Lake Rutanzige. The artefact is commonly known as the Ishango bone and could have influenced Egyptian arithmetic.

    Africa, the mother of planned cities

    The Egyptian ancient city of Kahun was the world’s first planned city. Walker says, “One part housed the wealthier inhabitants – the scribes, officials and foremen. The other part housed the ordinary people. The streets of the western section in particular, were straight, laid out on a grid, and crossed each other at right angles. A stone gutter, over half a metre wide, ran down the centre of every street.”

    Africa’s ancient sewerage systems

    Amarna, an ancient Egyptian city is known to have had a meticulous sewerage system. Walker records one urban planner’s view of the city, “Great importance was attached to cleanliness in Amarna as in other Egyptian cities. Toilets and sewers were in use to dispose waste….Amarna may have been the first planned ‘garden city’.”

    Africa, the master of architectural masterpieces

    The Great Pyramid of Giza, made of 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite is a wonder to behold even now. To bring it into perspective, it is the equivalent of some 40-storeys. This pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years until the 160 metre spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed.

    With so many other feats under Africa’s belt, the label of un-civilisation is only one given by the uneducated. It is misinformed prejudice and the wise brush it off as the minor irritation it is. Africa is the mother of civilisation and humanity.