As the Cradle of Mankind, Africa certainly offers the fascinating contours and crevices that were undoubtedly home to mankind’s earliest predecessors. Archaeologists from all over the world have flocked to this continent, and it has rewarded many of them with telling evidence of human beings and the lives they lived in prehistoric Africa.
In the beginning, it is believed that one solid land mass existed, rather than separate continents. This mass was called, amongst other names, Pangaea, and is thought to have existed some 300 million years ago. Africa was merely a projection out of the larger piece of land, and the entire continent boasted similar vegetation and a variety of impressive dinosaurs. It is believed to be approximately 150 million years ago that the African continent began to split from Pangaea, only remaining in contact with Asia in the northeastern-most corner.
Africa is 8000km long, from the furthest southern point (Cape Agulhas in South Africa) to the most northern extremity (Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia). At its widest (between Cape Verde in the West to Ras Hafun in Somalia in the East), Africa measures approximately 7400km. The coastline of the entire continent is fairly free of major indentations and bays, reducing its total area somewhat. It measures 26 000km.
Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is rich in historical and prehistoric value. For decades, archaeologists, scientific researchers and explorers have delighted in the rich remains of ancient sites, such as Sudan. These have revealed many secrets regarding the lives and customs of ancient man, providing a platform from which to study their development, as well as the benefit they got from Africa’s geological structure. The smallest on-land African country is Gambia, while the island of the Seychelles is the smallest African state overall.
Ptolemy was a geographer in the 1st century of our Common Era (CE) and propagated the idea that Africa was only the area west of Egypt, while the remaining part of the continent was deemed to be part of Asia. This made the Suez and Red Sea the boundary between these two continents. This idea was held by the ancient Romans for many years. When the Europeans started their exploration of the area, they discovered that, in fact, the area they had thought was Africa was, geographically, much larger. This made exploration of its extents even more interesting and exhilarating.
Another factor that made ancient Africa so diverse (in terms of the civilizations it was home to) was its range of flora and climates. North Africa right down into the northern parts of Central Africa were defined by dry, arid desert landscapes. Further into Central and southern Africa, the flora became more lush and tropical, with dense rain forests. Among these extremes are many other types of vegetation. This meant that even ancient Africa could accommodate an array of different animal species, and that our human ancestors could settle in different kinds of environments, depending on their needs and expertise.
It was this range of landscapes and vegetation that made Africa such an enticing and enthralling continent, and archaeological findings have proven that the humans that walked the earth in ancient times could, indeed, appreciate this richness and abundance.