Forgotten Africa: An Introduction to Its Archaeology

Forgotten Africa: An Introduction to Its Archaeology

Forgotten Africa: An Introduction to Its Archaeology

Forgotten Africa: An Introduction to Its Archaeology

Synopsis

Forgotten Africa introduces the general reader and beginning student to Africa's past, emphasizing those aspects only known or best known from archaeological and related evidence. It covers four million years of history across the continent, examining important aspects of Africa's momentous human story. Graham Connah is concerned to raise public awareness, both inside and outside Africa, to this frequently overlooked and often forgotten subject. Forgotten Africa examines:* human origins,* the material culture of hunter gatherers* the beginnings of African farming, the development of metallurgy* the emergence of distinctive artistic traditions* the growth of cities and states* the expansion of trading networks* the impact of European and other external contacts.The result is a fascinating and important story told in a straightforward and readable manner.

Excerpt

It all began in Africa, for all of us. Many years of careful investigation by many researchers have shown that the remote origins of humanity can be traced only in the African continent. It has also been demonstrated that the genus Homo, to which we belong, emerged there at a much later time, and there is a strong likelihood that Homo sapiens, fully modern people like ourselves, also originated in Africa even later. Thus the three most important developments in the history of the world's most successful species took place in Africa. As one leading authority has remarked: we are all Africans under our skin. However, the African past has often been overlooked by historians, who have tended to concentrate on other parts of the world. Mainly, this has been because Africa's past has been largely a forgotten past, that has had to be painstakingly reconstructed because of a lack of written records in many areas until recent centuries. This reconstruction has been quite a late development, within the last 100 years and much of it within only the last 50 years. It has been based on evidence from a variety of sources, including the material remains of past human behaviour that archaeologists investigate and the remembered traditions of many African peoples. For the earliest periods, however, it is palaeontology, the study of fossil animal remains, and genetics, the study of inherited characteristics, that have been most important. They have provided the basic biological information that, together with the archaeological data, enable us to piece together the story of our origins, in Africa.

Fundamental to that task is the idea of evolution and the survival of the fittest, pioneered by Charles Darwin 150 years ago, and the work of geneticists who have explained the mechanism whereby characteristics are inherited and evolution takes place. To this must be added the success of geologists in establishing a framework for the earth's history and in discovering the environmental changes that occurred during that history. Working within that context, palaeontologists have been able to show how the fossil remains of life recovered from geological deposits demonstrate the process of evolution, as species continually adjusted to changing environments. The result was a succession of life forms of increasing complexity,

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