Kenya is a Cradle of Mankind in Africa
Africa as the Cradle of Mankind
6 million years there was a portentous wend in the paradigm of the evolution of species, as the foremost ancestor of humankind set about evolving the features unique to its kind. Homo sapiens, the à la mode and only extant human species, belongs to a group of over 180 divergent species, some extanct, others that have disappeared, and is not per-se a direct descendant of the monkey species as the modest like to simplify. The origins of evolution and culture of the early human can be traced back to Africa, where those significant steps over millions of years to our current form existed, since the very first ancestor. For which reason it is prestigious for every country where discoveries have been unearthed (currently Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa) to be considered as a part of the cradle of mankind. Africa’s place in human evolution is determined by its related geography, its climate and environmental variation, whose history began about 10 million years, with the split of the common ancestor to Paninae (chimps) and Homininae (humans). 6 million years later, almost 4 million ago, Kenyanthropus platyops, Australopithecus bahreghazali, Abel Australopithecus anamensis, Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy Selam and Australopithecus arose.
3 million years ago marked the beginning of culture. Major archaeological sites have been identified and excavated in Eastern Africa: The Gona area, the Lower Omo Valley, Afar and Shungura in Ethiopia; Turkana in Kenya and the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania are among the earliest archaeological sites that preserve the history of early occupation and living sites. 2 million years ago the genus Homo moved, enlarged his territory and reached North Africa, the Mediterranean and, for the first time, beyond Africa, to the Middle East giving rise to: Neanderthal Man, Denisova Man, Java Man, Flores Man, Modern Man among many others. Modern man finished the peopling of the earth during that time. Momentously, in 1974, Donald Johanson discovered Australopithecus Afarensis in Ethiopia. Perhaps the most famous fossil is that of a female barely a metre of high and 30 Kg of weight, which he named ‘Lucy’ (dated 3.2 mya), the fossils found suggest the possible existence of the ‘first family’. Ergo, Africa has been biologically and culturally active and creative, and is essential in the history of mankind, as the first 8 million years of this history (10 – 12 mya) are only African. Today, Sibiloi National Park, Lower Awash Valley, Sterkfontein, Kromdraai, and Swartkrans areas are inscribed as World Heritage Sites for their outstanding contributions to the understanding of paleo-environments than any other region in the world.
Kenya as a Cradle of Mankind
Kenya contains sites of fossil finds that are key to the study of man’s evolution, early development and history. In the western part of the country, deposits have been found dating back over 20 million years. More pre-historic sites depicting early development and history of man are spread all along the Rift Valley. The Sibiloi National Park, famed throughout the world for its wildlife, also contains Koobi Foora, the most significant of several site in Kenya at which the remains of early man have been unearthed to give links in the chain of human evolution.
– A Guide to Major Archeological Sites in Kenya
1. Koobi Fora Museum
Koobi Fora Museum holds the largest documented collection of human related fossils which exists anywhere in Africa. It represents unique geo-morphological features with fossil deposits on sedimentary formations as well as one hundred identified archaeological and paleontological sites. Almost 10,000 fossils have been discovered here, more than 350 from ancient hominin species. The Koobi Fora Research Project (KFRP) was initiated in 1968 and excavation was began in the same years by Richard Leakey, the world renowned paleontologist, who established its initial site, Koobi Fora Base Camp, a large sand-spit projecting into Lake Turkana near the ridge located on the eastern shore. The ridge itself is an outcrop of mainly Pliocene/Pleistocene sediments composed of claystones, siltstones, and sandstones that have been key in the preservation of numerous fossils. In 1973, the Government of Kenya reserved the locale as Sibiloi National Park, establishing a headquarters for the National Museums of Kenya on Koobi Fora Spit. By 1994 there were over 200 hominid and animal fossils found there, the largest collection in the world. It was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1997.
Subsequent survey and numerous excavations at multiple locations have since established the region as an important source of hominid fossils shedding light on the evolution of man over the previous 4.2 million years, far exceeding the number of humanoid fossils and the non-humanoid fossils that give a detailed look at the fauna and flora as far back as the Miocene Era. Some notable areas within Koobi Fora include: Area 105 the first archaeological site or the FxJj 1, nicknamed the KBS site for Kay Behrensmeyer Site, after the researcher who first excavated stone tools; and Area 131 known as the location of skull 1470, discovered by Bernard Ngene in 1972, reconstructed by Meave Leakey, later reconstructed and named Homo habilis by Richard Leakey, as possibly the first of the genus Homo, and finally Homo rudolfensis. Other species represented in Koobi Fora Site are; Australopithecus anamensis (4.2 – 3.9 million years ago), Australopithecus boisei (2.1 – 1.1 million years ago), Homo habilis (1.9 – 1.6 million years ago), Homo rudolfensis (1.9 – 1.6 million years ago) and Homo ergaster (1.8 – 1.4 million years ago). Koobi Fora forms the backbone of the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI). Presently, Koobi Fora ridge is being eroded into a badlands terrain by a series of ephemeral rivers that drain into Lake Turkana.
2. Illeret Prehistoric Site
Best-known for the 1.5 million-old Homo-erectus footprint which is the second oldest “hominid” footprints ever cited, the Illeret Pre-historic Site and Research Base affiliated with Turkana Basin Institute has a lengthy history in the study of human evolution. Illeret was discovered and excavated in 1969 by Richard and Meave Leakey. In 2007, its research facility, east of Lake Turkana (about 51 kms north of the Koobi Fora Musuem) became a fully-fledged field research outpost.
3. Nariokotome Boy Monument
Turkana is home a handful of the monumental archaeological locates in Kenya, many of which have garnered plenty of global interest. One of the unsurpassed archaeological finds in Turkana, which was excavated in 1984 by a team led by Richard Leakey, and simply named Turkana Boy or Nariokotome Boy (symbolic of the locality where it was excavated), is also one of world’s earliest discovered hominids: A nearly complete skeleton of a “Homo erectus” youth who lived 1.6 million years ago. It is, by far, the most complete early hominid skeleton found. Turkana or Nariokotome Boy added to a very impressive history of the study of pre-human history in Turkana County which is widely christened as a Cradle of Mankind. The original Turkana or Nariokotome Boy was moved to a climate controlled safe at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi; catalog number KNM-WT 15000. At Nariokotome, a monument bearing the replica of Turkana Boy and the memorial obelisk are symbolic of its value in the story of evolution.
4. Lokallalei Site
From Kalokol the road which is motorable throughout year marches along the shores of Lake Turkana, passing through Kataboi; a much-liked fishing spot. It provides memorable views of Lake Turkana and on the opposite side of road the vast plain before arriving at Nachukui. Lokallalei, forming part of the Nachukui Formation, is the oldest archaeological site along the Rift Valley System and its importance in the understanding of hominid “knapping activity,” the early days hominidal tool factories, and technical artistry (dating back 2.34 Mya) makes it an important location in the understanding of human evolution. Lokalallei Site is found at the edge of the Lake Turkana and lies about 61 kms north of Kalokol.
Nachukui Formation, is a sedimentary sequence, 730 ms thick, that includes deposits from formation members including the Lonyumun (4.2-4 million years ago or Ma), Kataboi (3.9-3.4 Ma), Lomekwi (3.4-2.5 Ma), Lokalalei (2.5-2.3 Ma), Kalochoro (2.3–1.9 Ma), Kaitio (1.9–1.6 Ma), Natoo (1.6–1.3 Ma), and Nariokotome (1.3–0.6 Ma). Most deposits fer formed under lacustrine, fluvial and alluvial fan contexts including remains of the Kenyanthropus.
5. Turkana Basin Institute
The southern area of Turkana County, or the area south of Lodwar Town (which almost sits in the middle of the County) is in much the same league in places of interest as the northern area just alluded to en passant. Turkana Basin Institute found 50 kms west Lodwar is specially worth the drop-in by trippers interested in the prehistory of man. Founded by the renown paleo-anthropologist Richard E. Leakey in conjunction with Stony Brook University, this aims to advance the studies on Human Histories and Related Earth. The Turkana Basin Institute has two operational field centers, at Turkwel and at Illeret, that both contribute to the understanding of early human pre-history. Turkana County, of course, has a long history of research in unearthing human origins and evolution and this center is a huge-step forward in advancing this school of knowledge. The Turkana Basin Institute is patronized by students, experts and researchers from the world over who converge here to gain valuable experience in the fields of anthropology and paleontology. A trip to Turkana County, which is revered as the ‘Cradle of Mankind’, cannot omit a visit to one or more “human pre-history sites.” And T.B.I is a one-stop-shop. It is also within easy reach of Eliye Springs.
6. Lothagam Valley
The exemplary Lothagam Valley found near the shores of Lake Turkana, which it was part of until just 8000 years ago, is not only one of the geologically varied and scenically-splendid areas along the shores of Lake Turkana, but’s one of the most intriguing historically. As it goes, 5000 years ago, the first people to settle here built a medieval settlement which would have been at the littorals of Lake Turkana. In 2017, a team of experts led by Turkana Basin Institute unearthed the 120 m2 ‘ancient burial shrine‘ containing the remains of 600 men, women and children. It also contained a vast holding of ornaments and other artefacts. “Lothagam is about an hour away from TBI Turkwel. Geologically, it is known for its distinctive red sediment beds that were laid down during the late Miocene, about 7 million years ago. Because of the tectonic activities in the basin over millions of years, the beds have been tilted, deformed and eroded. Some of the iron-rich sediments have been slowly chiseled away by rain, leaving behind winding gullies and gorges. The landscapes are so stunningly bleak that they resemble the surface of Mars. Because of the lack of vegetation and shade, a typical day in Lothagam is very challenging, with temperatures hitting 40 ℃”.
7. The Nachola Site
At Nachola Village, situated down the escarpment in the gorge which eventually ends up at the bottom of Suguta Valley and west of Samburu Hills, is a site of archaeological importance that once produced numerous fossils relating to the ‘Kenyapithecus’ species. The Nachola area occupies the western periphery of the El Barta Plains. First excavated in 1963 by Baker and later in 1980 and 1982 by a Kenya-Japan expedition, the Nachola Prehistoric Site yielded several links in the chain of human evolution, with abundant fossils important to the study of ‘Nacholapithecus’ (initially classified as ‘Kenyapithecus’ sub species). “While eight large‐sized hominoid species dating to Early to Middle Miocene (about 17‐14 Ma) are known to exist in Afro‐Arabia and western Eurasia, the facial and postcranial anatomy of these apes is poorly known. However, much has been learned of the craniodental and postcranial anatomy of ‘Nacholapithecus’ – an almost entire skeleton of a male individual exhibiting a shared derived subnasal morphology with living apes. Samburu hominoid, a late Miocene fossil was unearthed in the basal dormitory region of the Namurungule Formation about 15 kms from Nachola. The Nachola Site is situated 13 kms east of Baragoi Town.
8. Kipsaraman Museum
Kipsaraman, sometimes spelt Kipsaramon, is one of the most significant fossil sites in Tugen Hills and in Rift Valley region of Kenya. Kipsaraman is located at the north edge of Tugen Hills and about 30 kms north of Kabarnet Town nearby Kapsomin. Kipsaraman Museum was gazetted as a national monument in 1990, following the discovery of a farrago of fossils related to primitive man. It gained global fame as a preeminent site in the study of evolution and climatic changes. Significantly, in 2000, the ‘Orrorin Tugenensis’, also known as the ‘Millennium Man‘ – named so because the fossilised remains were found at the turn of this millennium – was excavated here and dated back 5 million years ago. “The first remains were discovered in the Tugen Hills of Kenya’s Baringo on October 25, 2000, by a troupe from College de France in Paris and the Museums of Kenya”.
French and Kenyan scientists have unearthed fossilized remains of mankind’s earliest known ancestor that predate previous discoveries by more than 1.5 million years. The discovery of “Millennium Man,” as the creature has been nicknamed, could change the way scientists think about evolution and the origin of species. – Deseret News, Utah
9. Kariandusi Museum
Nakuru is rich in the remains of prehistoric man, and Kariandusi Museum, 7 kms beyond Gilgil and passing Kekopey Centre, is one of the most important in Kenya. It was first excavated in 1928 under the guidance of Dr. L.S.B Leakey yielding numerous links in the chain of human evolution, with abundant fossil remains dating back 700,000 to 1 million years. Kariandusi is plausibly the first Acheulian Site to have been found in Situ in East Africa. Thereafter, excavation progressed almost continuously for two decades, and it is possible to visit these sites and stand where these discoveries, so important to the history of mankind, were made. Key interest for visitors include the museum exhibition hall, field archaeological site, nature trail to the gorge and Church of Goodwill. Kariandusi also lies just east of Lake Elementaita and is flanked by Menengai Crater on the north and Eburru Mountains found on the south. It is located just 2 kms off the Gilgil-Nakuru Road and can be explored in combination with Lake Elementaita.
10. Hyrax Hill Museum
North of Lake Nakuru National Park, shortly before arriving at Nakuru Town nearby Shree Jalaram Aradhana Temple, sits the Hyrax Hill Museum, a former farm house containing an interesting display of stone age utensils and tools. It is named after the hyraxes living in cracks within its hill. It was established, in 1943, to depict the lifestyle of seasonal settlement by prehistoric people at least 3,000 years old. The compact museum exhibits the artefacts excavated from the Hyrax Hill archaeological site and from other sites in the Central Rift Valley. For nature lovers, a day at the Hyrax Hill overlooking Lake Nakuru is one of the finest viewpoints provided the weather is good. Other areas of interest include the Sirikwa Holes, the nature trail and picnic site, and camping ground. Hyrax Hill Museum is situated 4 kms from Nakuru Town along Nakuru-Nairobi Road.
11. River Njoro Caves
An essential part to remember is that Njoro is in the Rift Valley, so volcanicity is an important element in its physical geography. It does means the soils derived from volcanic rocks are rife for farming. Njoro is situated at the western edge of the floor of the Rift, at the very base of Mau Escarpment. At Njoro, the topping height of the contour lines rises rapidly towards the escarpment from 7000 ft to 8100 ft (2140 ms to 2440 ms) over a distance of 8 kms. As such, this part of the valley is much higher, wetter and cooler than parts further north and south and, in the same way, the greater part of Njoro area is farmed; agriculture and stock farming being often carried out side by side. The greater part of the agricultural farmlands, chiefly wheat and barley, is farmed on the higher ground near Molo and Elburgon. Hidden within the boonies of Njoro, at Njokerio Village, are the little-travelled Njoro Caves, a traditional pilgrimage shrine that was thrust into the limelight in 1938 when Dr L.S.B. Leakey excavated a vast prehistoric burial shrine dated back to 850 B.C. They offer rare insight on the connection between traditional religion and science. There is also a tiny waterfalls near Njoro Caves.
12. Olorgesailie Museum
12 kms past Mount Olorgesailie, at Oltepesi, is a momentous landmark among the archaeological sites of Kenya. At this site, a respectable size of tools made by the pre-historic man some 200,000 years ago remain exposed and are visible to visitors. First excavated in 1919 by geologist John Gregory and subsequently in 1942 by Louis Leakey, Olorgesailie Museum is best known for its enriching and fascinating pre-history of man. The site itself is on a dried lake basin thought to have existed about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. Fittingly eke-named the tool factory, it exhibits many of tools associated with the Middle Pleistocene Epoch. Unique to the Olorgesailie Museum is its looping elevated walkway, which goes appreciably close to the excavation site exposing lots of interesting artefacts. It makes for an intriguing final destination on an afternoon’s vivify joyride across the humps of Ngong Hills down to the Rift Valley. The more ardent adventurer may wish to continue down to Lake Magadi 35 kms past the exit to Olorgesailie.
13. Songhor Pre-historic Site
This is located about 14 kms northeast of the Chemilil / Makutano roundabout along C37 Chemilil-Kopere Road passing Chemilil Sugar Factory and Kopere-Songhor Road, taking a right turnoff at Kopere Shopping Centre. The 78-acres Songhor Pre-historic Site is located at the foot of Nandi Escarpment, and it was gazetted in 1982 as a national monument owing to its importance in the study of the Miocene Era, 19 Mya. The hominids excavated here point to the existence of man and a variety of animals thriving in this area during the antiquated past. The evidence also indicates that the ape-like-man proconsul Africanus lived at Songhor. Although there is very little to separate this site from its surrounding grassy landscape, apart from a modest timber-built research base, and offers little for tourism, Songhor is still an active research base frequented by experts, especially anthropologists and paleontologists studying the Miocene Era. It is situated 50 kms east of Kisumu City via C34 Mamboleo-Miwani-Chemilil Road.
14. Muguruk Archaelogical Site Site
14 kms from Kisumu you arrive at Kisian and the turnoff to C27 Kisian-Bondo-Usenge which travels westerly along the north and west boundary of Kavirondo Gulf within sniffing distance of the lake. 9 kms west from the turnoff you reach the small settlement of Pau Akuche, where the Muguruk Archaeological Site in located. Gazetted on June 4, 1982, as a National Monument, it’s comprised of a fenced area of 2 acres on the eastern banks of Muguruk River. First excavated in 1926 by W. Owen and then later on in 1945 by L. Leakey, Muguruk revealed many light and heavy duty scrapper and choppers, or advanced tools. The site is mainly of interest for trippers with a knack of geology and paleontology; able to marvel and study the superimposed bedrocks eke-named the”Ojolla Industry” where plentiful late and middle stone-age industry artefacts indicative of a well organized and advanced society are embedded. Muguruk Site has no museum.
15. Maboko Island
The 1.8 kms long – 1 km wide Maboko Island in Kavirondo Gulf (also known as Winam Gulf), set 44 kms seawards from Kisumu City, has been transmuted to a popular getaway. In the 1980’s, Maboko Island was a cradle for archaeological expeditions with significant remains collected here, most notably those of the Kenyapithecus species. In recent years, the development of the pocket-friendly Camp Tom also known as Maboko Island Resort, with 10 beautifully-appointed cottages set along its undisturbed shoreline has re-ignited interest in the island.
16. Kanjera Prehistoric Site
The late Pliocene Oldowan occurrences at the Kanjera Prehistoric Site are set on the northern margins of Homa Penninsula. Discovered and excavated by Dr. Louis Leakey, in 1932, Kanjera produced a cornucopia of hominoidal remains, some dated 1 Mya. Since, subsequent excavations at Kanjera have expanded its collection of artefacts. “The lithological sequence at Kanjera South consists of 6 beds of the Southern Member of the Kanjera Formation”. – Plos One. Informed by decades of research and science, it was concluded that at least one species of tool-making hominin, almost certainly of the genus Homo, was regularly using this open setting. In contrast, most other Oldowan occurrences are situated in more wooded settings. The discoveries at Kanjera indicate that by 2.0 Mya tool-making hominins, probably early Homo, accessed and used a broad spectrum of East African habitats, from these open grassland to riparian forests. Away from its archaeological value, Kanjera Site has exceptional panoramic vistas of the countryside and there is also the Bala Lawi Hot Springs found at close quarters.
17. Kanam Prehistoric Site
Also first excavated in 1932 by Dr. Louis Leakey, Kanam is best-known for the discovery of a fossil human mandible alongside varied Pleistocene fauna and pebble tools of the early Pleistocene epoch. Gazetted in July 1982 as a National Monument, the area comprises of hillocks and gullies bounded to the north by Pala-Kuwur Road starting at the point where Rawe River branches eastwards. Kanam Site, not far from Kanjera, produced numerous artefacts which included hominidal remains dated 1 Mya. Although there is very little at present to show for its archaeological achievements, trippers can enjoy walks around the area to various vantages. “At Homa, there are only sparse remnants of extrusive cover by which the sub-volcanic surface can be identified. Patches of melanephenite petrographically identical with the Miocene Kisingiri lavas occur north of the Homa Hills, on the south flank of Nyasanja Valley and at Kanam” – Juliet Bach.
Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution
In 1831 CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN, the British naturalist and geologist, set off on an extraordinary journey that transformed the reality of our world. Then aged 22, he had received a once in lifetime invitation. A round the world trip on the survey ship “HMS Beagle”. Over the 5 year voyage, Darwin collected a vast array of specimens, in the thousands, which he sent back to collectors. Rather more importantly, his passages had aroused one of the most powerful ideas ever to occur to a human mind. Growing doubtful about the biblical story of how animals were created, he was puzzled at why God had bothered to create similar but slightly different types of animals. This inquiry would eventually lead him to the discovery that each species on our planet is just a variation of the next, with the variances arising from how each adapted to its environment. 150 years later, his masterpiece, The Origin of Species, is still one of the great scientific books of the world. Its theory of evolution by natural selection offers us a complete explanation of the complexity and diversity of all life. It offers us a richer and spectacular view of our world. Everything life is explained herein. Explained by a massive number of facts backed up by millions and millions of pieces of undeniable evidence. It has influenced most thought of modern times.
Mr. Thomas Henry Huxley, as cited in ‘The Reception of the Origin of Species’, described it thus: “The “struggle for existence,” and “natural selection,” have become household words and every-day conceptions. Both the reality and the importance of the natural processes on which Darwin founds his deductions are no more doubted than those of growth and multiplication.” Darwin’s theories of “struggle for excellence” and “natural selection” set precedence to the fact that someone, somewhere, had to have been the first. His theories opened the entire world for inquiry. It was now the archaeologist’s job to find the links. Today, across the landscape of the many countries, historical and archaeological sites have been discovered and archaeologists continue the search for missing links in our evolution. And new technology is revolutionizing the study of our past. Ground penetrating radar is now able to detect fossils and structures hidden in the earth, and laser scans reconstruct individual faces from human skulls as well as produce 3D models of an entire landscape. Darwin too was influenced by paleontology and archaeology. The pioneering work of Charles Lyell who had earlier suggested that, “the landscape around us was formed by the slow action of vast forces, over millions of years of gradual change”, had helped him form an ever better theory of life, using patterns and relationships he encountered with fossils; which he was aptly able to identify as long dead species of animals.
Evolution Versus Religion
Today, the story of evolution is still baffling to most Kenyans. According to the East Africa Living Encyclopedia Statistics, 70% of Kenyans are Christians, 25% adhere to indigenous religion and 6% are Muslim, and all prefer to cling to the idea that God created our world and every living creature in it, each to their own version. And while the “cradle of mankind” museums remain a tempting metaphor for tourism attraction, local and international, it is no march for a lifetime of religious indoctrination. Do we perhaps deliberately turn a blind eye to how strong the evidence is? Or it just could be that the reason we believe in creation is because that’s the story we were told first? And although it states different in all religious books, everyone believes what they want to believe in, even if they contradict each other. Does evolution offers a far richer and utter view of the world? Besides, isn’t it massively supported? There are million and millions of pieces of evidence which no reasonable person can possibly dispute.
Archaeological Sites at the Coast of Kenya
For the casual visitor, Fort Jesus, Gede Ruins, Jumba la Mtwana, Takwa Ruins and Siyu Fort are perhaps the most interesting and striking of the historic sites at the Coast Region of Kenya, yet, these are among the dozens of well-studied and accessible historic sites along the Coast. Some of the historic sites found here are composed of the old settlement towns and outlying groups of tombs. It is awash with a collection of historic sites, found mainly along the coast, many of them on private lands; consisted of ancient mosques, ruins, palaces, houses, walls with gates and tombs. Owing to their isolation and overgrown vegetation, some are hard to reach. All historic sites found in Kenya are protected under Chapter 215 of the Laws of Kenya: The preservation of Objects of Archaeological and Palaeontological Interest Ordinance. This collates a list of those ruins and monuments listed as protected under the Subsidiary Legislation of Chapter 215, as revised in 1962, considering only historic sites in the Coast Region of Kenya.
The Coast of Kenya
A Guide to Historic Sites along the Coast Region of Kenya gives comprehensive information on 45 (+) historic sites, from Vanga Ruins (in the south) northerly heading along the coastline to Ishakani Ruins (in the north).