Written by Aston Farquharson
Africa holds the earliest evidence of the existence of our human ancestors on Earth. One of the sites is Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.
Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in Olduvai dating back millions of years, leading them to conclude that Homo sapiens (humans) first appeared in Africa.
The gorge is located in Africa’s Great Rift Valley, between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park about 30 miles from Laetoli, another fossil-rich area in Africa.
Oldupai Gorge is perhaps one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in Africa providing lots of information and speculation on human evolution to modern humans. You can do your own research on the works of Louis and Mary Leaky.
Early Homo habilis (humans) are dated to around 1.9 million years ago, probably the first early human species to have occupied Olduvai Gorge. Then came australopithecine 1.8 million years ago and Homo erectus about 1.2 million years ago. Modern humans (Homo sapiens) are about 500,000 to 200,000 years ago and it’s around this time arts and more modern tools, implements, crafts including the bow and arrow, first appeared in Africa, arguably before anytime else in the world.
Olduvai Gorge's excavations show humans' social and nutritional evolution going back about one million years. These earliest humans called hominins made stone tools for hunting and survival mostly on plants and some meat.
In terms of diets, not much seems to have changed from ancient to modern times. Keep in mind that archaeologists are not calling these early humans (hominins) true humans, due to the attitude towards African ancestry since the 1800s. The social scientists that wrote the early research papers setting the standard of thinking about early humans wanted to remove the knowledge of African human origins from society by dehumanizing our earliest prehistoric ancestors. We at NuSpecies do see them as our early human ancestors with Khoi Khoi or hunter-gatherers' DNA and genes affecting our very way of life today.
African Food Before Farming
Early humans’ diets seem very specific and limited to plants. Their skulls had a sagittal crest with powerful jawbones and large molars probably evidence of the necessity for heavy chewing of tough seeds, roots, and nuts as well as other plant life like figs and tubers. They also ate weeds, herbs, grasses, and sedges. These foods were consumed raw.
There are speculations as to how much meat they actually ate, but the bulk of their nutrition was from plants. If the chimpanzee's diet is any indication, it’s about 90 percent plants and 10 percent meat. The diets of the Bushmen or hunter-gatherers (more modern human ancestors called the Khoi Khoi) never included much meat up to several hundred years ago.
Agriculture in Africa may have begun around 15000 to 9000 BC in the heart of the Sahara Desert. Up to about 5,200 BC, the Sahara had significant moisture and was highly populated by plants, people, and animals. Several plants were domesticated there such as pearl millet, sorghum, and cowpeas, which in later centuries spread through West Africa and the Sahel.
Later, Africans inhabiting along the Nile River Valley farmed figs and collected fruits, wild grain, and nuts. They also ate some fish and meat. They got a lot of their fats or proteins from nuts and palm oil.
The taming and herding of cattle began around 15000 BC. By 7000 BC, Nubians, Ethiopians, and Eretrians expanded their farming to include a grain called teff, millet, and barley.
Farming, like pyramid-building and other technology, spread over North Africa with Africans moving further north from the Sahara and Nubia to another developed tribal area called Egypt. Egypt had joined them in farming wheat, barley, lentils, and chickpeas.
Between 5000 BC and 3000 BC, the climate changed and the Sahara Desert grasslands started to give way to inhospitably drying conditions. South of the Sahara Desert, in Sudan, the weather also got drier forcing the need to farm exclusively for survival. But wheat and barley did not grow well in that climate, probably because of their proximity to the equator. Millet is like barley so the North Africans started using it to make bread or mush (like a thick oatmeal).
Figs and their leaves are very healthy food with lots of calcium and potassium, other minerals and vitamins, as well as fiber. Fig trees produce crops several times of the year in some climates.
Wild fig trees first grew in Africa but they also existed in West Asia and South Asia and around the Mediterranean Sea, beginning probably about a hundred million years ago, in the time of the dinosaurs. Many primates ate figs, and people have been eating wild figs for millions of years it seemed.
The Saharans were farming figs for probably more than 20,000 years. Farmed figs may be the first kind of food that anybody farmed, even before wheat and barley. The prehistoric Africans knew that farming figs in certain climates with wasps and bees would expose the plants to pollination and thus larger crops would ensue.
Other regions of the world outside of Africa also are believed to have farm figs around 5000 years ago.
West African Tubers
In the rainforests south of Sudan, grasses couldn’t grow because it was too wet and swampy. Here people began to farm root vegetables, especially yams, and so they lived mainly on yams and other tubers.
All of these plant-based diets are still practiced today all around the world. The phenomenon of the diets that many humans eat today made up of mostly animal products and processed foods is so recent that it doesn’t even qualify as part of human history yet.
The industrial revolution, marketing to sell food products, the weight loss industry, factory farming and much more are all examples of major economic forces turning food into products to be sold, rather than a biological need that can determine our survival as a species.
We have a lot to learn from our prehistoric ancestors and a lot to unlearn as well. We’ve all been born into the present culture where we get more information about nutrition from marketing that’s selling food products or diets rather than true knowledge about human nutrition.
If you’ve begun the journey of rebuilding your health, it won’t be long before you’re completely confused about what is healthy and what is not.
NuSpecies suggests that you skip over all information about nutrition that’s been published in the last 100 years and take your lessons from our ancient ancestors - they did manage to survive that way for millions of years.
This is the first generation where parents are outliving their children.
NuSpecies is changing that. You can join us.