Major Archaeological Sites in Kenya
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 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.