Before the 1920s, many scholars and scientists believed that the origins of human beings were traced back to Europe or Asia based on archaeological finds in those regions.
But in 1924, a discovery in South Africa became the first step to changing this perception of where mankind first began.
In that year, an Australian paleoanthropologist was examining a box bones when he discovered the fossilized skull of a young child.
After examination, he concluded that the remains of the child were “an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man.”
Unofficially, the skull became known as the Taung child after the nearby town where it was discovered. But Dart gave it an official Latin name, Australopithecus africanus (“Southern Ape of Africa”).
Many scientists moved to discount Dart’s discovery but enough were intrigued to follow up on his beliefs.
In 1960, an archaeologist named Louis S.B. Leakey who was exploring the Olduvai Gorge region of East Africa, made one of the oldest fossil finds of early man. He named his fossil Zinjanthropus (meaning “Eastern man”).
It took a few years to analyze the age of the fossil but it was eventually determined to be approximately 1.75 million years old.
More recently in 2015, a fossil find in an area called the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa was analyzed by researchers and is believed to be a new species of human ancestor. It was named Homo Naledi (naledi means “star” in the local Sotho-Tswana language of the area where the fossil was found).
There are new questions raised by this discovery and about how our human family tree is structured. But the answer to the main question seems to be re-confirmed by this find and that is that Africa truly is the birthplace of mankind.
Jeffries, Leonard, “African Origins of Early Humanity” (n.d.). Retrieved on December 11, 2017
Shreeve, Jamie, “This Face Changes the Human Story. But How?” (September 10, 2015). Retrieved on December 11, 2017.
Wayman, Eric, “How Africa Became the Cradle of Humankind” (October 17, 2011). Retrieved on December 11, 2017.