THE HISTORY OF KENYA
Some twenty five million years ago the extensive plateaus of Kenya were pushed up into a dome by underground pressure, the molten rock deep below erupting through to form huge volcanoes on the surface. The dome continued to swell cracking from north to south: the land in the west dropped into a huge depression, filling with water to form the inland sea of Lake Victoria. In spasms of violent earthquakes the crack continued to open up, and over millions of years joined with other fissures to form the Red Sea down to Mozambique.
The formation of this giant fault had a serious effect on the vegetation and wildlife of prehistoric Kenya. Streams flowed from the walls of the valley forming a series of lakes, and Highlands created rain shadows on their leeward sides resulting in a gradual die?out of the forests. It is believed that man’s ancestors lived in this valley on the banks of its lakes and streams. Ancient camp?sites with remains of animal meals and stone tools have been discovered, along with numerous hominid and ape fossils ranging over a period of twenty five million years.
Mary and Louis Leakey have been excavating fossils from the floor of the Rift Valley since 1934, to be followed up today by their son Richard. Their theories of man’s evolution have been debated by scientists all over the world. They have made some extremely impressive discoveries in their excavation sites at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, and Koobi Fora on the north?east shores of Lake Turkana, proving their theories most convincing. The current theory for the complex evolution of man is: Australopithecus Africanus evolved from Australopithecus Afarensis some 2,4 million years ago. Then between 2 and 1.6 million years ago Australopithecus Africanus divided into two branches, Australopithecus Robustus and Homo Habilis, which developed differently due to their adaptation to different foods and lifestyles. Australopithecus Robustus ate mainly plant foods with huge rear teeth and powerful jaws for crushing and grinding fibrous matter. Homo Habilis became a meat eater, scavenging for meat and practicing hunting. He made tools to help him hunt hence developing a capacity to think. Fossil remains prove that organised human behaviour began about two million years ago when Homo Habilis lived in cooperative communities as an ancestral human society.
By 300.000 years ago the first Homo Sapiens were beginning to evolve from Homo Erectus, but uncertainty about dating and fossil records hinders any clear deductions. The fossil and archaeological record of these Homo Sapiens is sparse in Kenya, although some evidence of this period has been found near Lake Baringo. Homo Sapiens roamed East Africa at least 100.000 years ago as proven by three skulls found in the Omo Valley area of Southern Ethiopia. By then man was an expert hunter living off the vast herds of antelope, gazelle and other animals that roamed the endless savannas of East Africa. Modern man in the anatomical sense, emerged only around 40.000 years ago during the middle Stone Age period. By 20.000 years ago he was making small delicate objects from stone which were often attached to a handle of wood and bone to make instruments that performed daily tasks.