We all agree that Kenya is best known for her majestic wildlife, pleasant weather and the expansive beaches that undoubtedly attract tourists both local and international. The relative serenity in the country only adds to the reasons why people are willing to spend a fortune for a getaway in the Mara, a feel of the beaches’ sand between the toes and a chance to bask in the tropical sun. We see tourists coming in droves especially over the Wildebeest migration or December holidays because they hear stories of the big five in our parks or have been here and want to re-live those moments.
While Kenya is universally renowned for the wildlife, there are other gems that form perfect sites for even more adventure and are great sources of knowledge – Pre-historic sites. For the longest time, Africa has been touted as the cradle of mankind by archaeologists who dedicate their time to exploring places to establish phases of evolution of man. Although it has been quite challenging to point out the specific origin of humankind owing to the many sites with evidence of early life in Africa, Kenya forms an integral part of studying the life of the early man.
We cannot go without mentioning the role played by Loius Leakey, his wife Mary Leakey and son Richard Leakey. The Leakeys have arguably discovered some of the most important sites not only in Kenya but also in the East African region. It didn’t stop there; the descendants of the Leakey family went ahead to establish the ‘Turkana Basin Institute’ in Northern Kenya which serves as a convenient location for academics interested in studying the origin of mankind. The institute and the National Museums of Kenya are rich with content on fossils and artifacts which has been collected and compiled by anthropological archaeologists.
Visiting these places, you will get access to some of the world’s most important collections of fossils, artifacts and paintings that will help you piece together information capable of aiding you solve the puzzle of evolution. You will appreciate that the journey from the small-brained creature in the past to the much bigger-brained and smaller-jawed human beings has been long and winding, but nonetheless important.
The discovery of the 1.6 million year-old skeleton of the famous ‘Turkana Boy’ near Lake Turkana greatly drew the attention of the world as this was the most complete prehistoric human skeleton ever found. This place near Lake Turkana has since been considered the site for discovery of Homo Habilis. To really understand the cradle of mankind in Kenya, you cannot afford to ignore the following sites:
Kariandusi offers the perfect site for the study of the Acheulian period when the early man would make tools mainly out of stone to aid in his living. The widely known tool is the hand axe which he used as a knife. Remains of these tools indicate that Kariandusi must have been the living site of the hand-axe man and possibly the first Acheulian site in the Acheulian period. It was discovered in 1928 by Louis Leakey in Nakuru near Lake Elementaita. The site is not just a mere learning site as you it has a lot more to offer as a camp site, picnic site, museum, cave, archaeological site, diatomite mining site, monumental church building, site for nature trails and caves.
This is a site near Lake Turkana that consists of well-preserved hominin fossils discovered between 2.1 million and 1.3 million years ago. The discovery of 1.44 million-year old jawbone of the Homo habilis and 1.55 million-year old skull of the Homo erectus show that that the two creatures co-existed near Lake Turkana. Hand axes and other tools also add to the evidence of the existence of the early man at the site. Visiting the site you will also learn of the Kenyan version of the Australopithecus (Kenyanthropus platyops) which was also discovered here.
Barely an hour from Nairobi and located along Magadi road, Olorgesailie is renowned for having the largest number of stone tools in the world. The discovery of human tools at the site point to the existence of the early man who made these tools mainly from stones.
Discovered by Louis Leakey in 1926 and major excavations started by his wife Mary in 1937, the place is considered a key Neolithic excavation site within Nakuru. Louis discovered the place while excavating a nearby Nakuru burial but paid little attention to it as it had all signs of recent of occupation.
The information on the genesis of man cannot easily be crammed in this post and you will need to visit the places to get firsthand information and learn more. You can combine visits to these historical sites with other cultural tourism activities in the area.