East Africa - History - Prehistory

Prehistory

According to the theory of recent African origin of modern humans, the mainstream position held within the scientific community, all humans originate from East Africa. Some of the earliest fossilized hominid remains have been found in East Africa, including those found in Awash Valley of Ethiopia, Koobi Fora in Kenya and Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.

The southern part of East Africa was occupied until recent times by Khoisan hunter-gatherers, whilst in the Ethiopian Highlands the donkey and such crop plants as teff allowed the beginning of agriculture around 7,000 B.C. Lowland barriers and diseases carried by the tsetse fly, however, prevented the donkey and agriculture from spreading southwards. Only in quite recent times has agriculture spread to the more humid regions south of the equator, through the spread of cattle, sheep and crops such as millet. Language distributions suggest that this most likely occurred from Sudan into modern Uganda and the African Great Lakes, since the Nilotic languages spoken by these pre-Bantu farmers have their closest relatives in the middle Nile basin.

Between 2500–3000 years ago, Bantu-speaking peoples began a millennia-long series of migrations eastward from their homeland that is (modernly known as) southern Cameroon across the Rwenzori Mountains. This Bantu expansion introduced agriculture into those parts of East Africa either not reached previously by Nilo-Saharan farmers or too wet for millet. During the following fifteen centuries, the Bantu slowly intensified farming and grazing over all suitable regions of East Africa, in the process making contact with Austronesian- and Arabic-speaking sailors on the southern coastal areas. The latter also spread Islam to the coastal belt, but most Bantu never had contact with Islam and remained animists.

The Bantu expansion was followed by the Nilotic expansion across parts of East Africa during ca. the 14th to 18th centuries.

Read more about this topic:  East Africa, History

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