The early man



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THE EARLY MAN




THE EARLY MAN.


How the early man originated.

There are three theories which explain the origin of man. These are:

a) Creation theory

This has its origin in the Bible (The Old Testament).

The book of Genesis says that God created man in his own image and then told him to multiply and fill the earth.

Creation theory is also contained in the Koran which states that the first man named Adam was created by Allah. From Adam’s rib, Allah created his wife, Hawa (Eve).

b) The evolution theory

Evolution is the process of gradual change in living organisms.

Evolution theory was formulated by Charles Darwin – in 1859. He recorded the theory in his book entitled “The origin of species”.

According to Darwin, man developed from the Ape-like creatures that were his ancestors many thousands of years ago. He says these ape-like creatures slowly changed over the ages to look more man-like than ape-like.

c) Traditional (Mythical) theory

Every traditional community had an explanation of its origin. This explanation was passed from one generation to the other and kept on revolving for ages. For example the Kikuyu myth of origin says that Ngai (God) created Gikuyu (the first man) and then provided him with a wife they called Mumbi.


The evolution of man and the stages of his evolution.


Evolution is the process of gradual change. Many years ago man began to develop from ape-like creatures. At first he walked on all fours but later he used his hind limbs as legs and he stood upright.

The early man first originated and lived in Africa. It is later when some of them spread into Europe, Asia and America.

East Africa is very rich in archaeological sites, some of which are: Rusinga Island, Njoro river cave, Olorgesaille and Fort Ternan in Kenya. Also Kondora Irangi and Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.

Archaeological findings show that man evolved through the following stages:



Dryopithecus Africanus (Proconsul)

The Dryopithecus skull was found in Africa by Mary Louis Leaky. His skull and limb bones were escavated on Rusinga Island and he resembled apes more than he resembled man.

Dryopithecus had the following physical and cultural features.


  1. He walked on all fours

  2. He had long teeth

  3. He ate flesh and fruits

  4. He used limbs as arms

  5. He hunted and gathered.

Dryopithecus existed about 20 – 25 million years ago and lived in the East African forest.

Ramapithecus (Kenya pithecus):

Dr. Leakey escavated these fossils at Fort Ternan near Kericho

Ramapithecus had the following physical and cultural features:


  1. He had massive jaws

  2. He had grinding teeth

  3. He resembled apes more than man

  4. He had smaller canines than those of apes.

Ramapithecus existed in the East African grasslands 12 to 15 million years ago.

Australopithecus (Zinjanthropus):

Their fossils were first escavated in South Africa

Later fossils of these creatures were found at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and they were closer to modern man.

These hominids had the following physical and cultural features.



  • They had grinding teeth

  • Their bodies were hairy

  • They were short

  • They had low forehead and deep set eyes.

  • They had a small brain capacity which was a third of that of modern man.

  • They walked in upright posture.

  • They relied on fingers to acquire food.

  • They ate flesh and fruits.

  • They made and used simple stone tools.

  • They learnt that they could use stone tools for defence against other animals.

  • They hunted and gathered.

Australopithecines were living in Africa about 2 to 7 million years ago and existed in several species such as Australopithecus Afarensis, Australopithecus Africanus, Australopithecus Robustus and Australopithecus Boisei who was related to robustus.

Homo Habilis

The skull of Homo Habilis was escavated at Olduvai gorge in Tanzania and at Kobi Fora near lake Turkana

Homo Habilis means “handy man” or “man with ability” or “practical man”.

Man at this evolution stage had the following cultural and physical features:



  1. He used his hands to grasp objects.

  2. He had a large brain capacity (680cc)

  3. He made useful tools from stones and sticks.

  4. He could control his hands by use of his brain.

  5. He hunted and gathered.

  6. He resembled man more than apes. He is therefore regarded as a true ancestor of man.

  7. He communicated through elementary language and lived in Africa about one and half million years ago.

Homo Erectus

Homo Erectus is also referred to as ‘upright man’.

He was more man-like than Ape-like.

His remains were escavated in Ethiopia.

The following were his physical and cultural features:


  1. He had upright walking posture.

  2. He was more intelligent than the earlier man like apes.

  3. He had a higher brain capacity (1000 cc).

  4. He was able to make stone and bone weapons. He made Acheulian tools using Levallois technique of organising flakes into small pieces.

  5. He learnt how to make fire.

  6. He developed speech.

  7. He painted pictures on the walls of his cave dwellings.

  8. He hunted and gathered.

  9. Home erectus existed during the middle Stone Age period.

Rhodesian man

His skull was excavated in Zambia, formerly known as Northern Rhodesia.

He was closer to the modern man than Homo erectus.

The following were his physical and cultural features:



  1. He walked with long strides.

  2. He made tools made of stone.

  3. He had a well-developed brain almost the size of that of modern man.

  4. He walked on two legs and he had an upright posture although his forehead was sloping backward.

  5. He hunted and gathered.

Neanderthal man

He was closer to the modern man than the Rhodesian man.

His fossils were excavated in Neander valley in Germany and in several other sites in Europe.

The following were his physical and cultural features:



  1. He hunted and gathered.

  2. He made tools and weapons from stone.

  3. He walked in an upright posture.

  4. He was heavily built.

  5. His brain capacity was high and in some cases larger than that of modern man.

  6. He fed on meat from the wild animals he hunted.

Cro-Magnon

His fossils were found in Western Europe and he was taller than modern man. He existed between 10,000 to 50,000 years ago.

He had the following physical and cultural features:


  1. He made and used delicate microlithic tools, which were well refined.

  2. He hunted and gathered.

  3. He lived in caves.

  4. He used fire to warm himself and roast meat.

  5. He painted pictures on the walls of caves.

  6. His eye-brow range was thicker than that of modern man.

Cro-Magnon lived during the Middle Stone age period and he used fire to cook. The tools he used were reasonably improved. The caves he lived in were painted.

Homo Sapiens

Homo Sapiens implies “thinking man” or “intelligent man”. He used advanced Acheulian tools and also manufactured other better tools such as daggers, side scrapers and chisels.

Homo sapiens also learnt to make better tools by use of Levallois – technique and later developed the microlith industry. He existed during the New Stone age. The following were the physical and cultural features of man during Homo Sapiens stage:


  1. He tamed and kept livestock.

  2. He cultivated.

  3. He buried the dead.

  4. He settled in villages.

  5. He began fishing by use of bone harpoons.

  6. He developed government.

  7. He started religion.

  8. He began simple industry which made beads out of seeds, bones and egg shells and also pottery, basketry and painting.

  9. He made better clothes from skins by knitting them with bone needles.

  10. He built huts made of thatch and mud.


Things which enable the archaeologists to study the origin of man.



The study of early man has not been easy but in order to facilitate it the archaeologists have tried to use the tools early man used for example the “Acheulian tools” such as scrapers, hand axe, arrow heads, choppers, spear heads and “Microliths” tools such as fishing harpoons, bone needles, arrow heads, sickles and blades.

They have also used remains of garments or skin clothes, the weapons early man used, the remains of beads, the shelter of the early man, grains and food remains and also the cave paintings or art work as well as traces of the remains of fire e.g. charcoal and carbonised seeds. By use of all these the archaeologist has been able to make useful conclusions on man’s origin and his evolution.

Uses of the early Archeulian tools

  • Archeulian tools were made from several materials. They were sharper than those used before. Examples of these types of tools were arrow-heads, axes and spear-heads.




  • Archaeulian tools were used for digging roots, skinning animals, killing animals, grinding or pounding vegetables, scrapping animal skins and for breaking the bones of animals.

Methods used when dating fossils by the archaeologists

Carbon 14 testsArchaeologists use this to determine the amount of Carbon 14 in an object because the older the remains, the less carbon 14 they have.

Potassium – Argon test - This is mainly used to date the volcanic ash and also the fossils which may be escavated in the volcanic rocks. It can only be used to date artefacts which are old (about 300,000 years and above).

Paleomagnetic dating method
– This method is used to date fossils upto

10,000 years of age.

Stratigraphy - It is used to date fossils lying between layers of

sedimentary rocks.



Some notable archaeologists in E. Africa who used some of these methods to date fossils were Dr. Leakey, Dr. Freeman, Dr. Posnansky, Mr. Chittick, and Mr. Kirkman.

Why early man made tools and weapons


  • For defence against other wild animals

  • For hunting and gathering for example animals and fruits respectively

  • For cultivating especially during the new stone age when he

domesticated plants

  • For exchanging with other items.

  • Due to his curiosity to find out things.

The items early man used for making tools and weapons he used were stone, Bone, Horn, Flint, Wood and sticks. These were used to make a wide range of items which early man became specialised in.



The earliest industries established by early man were tool making, weapon making, cloth making, pottery, weaving and basketry. Tools and weapons were made in the industries collectively called the Oldowan Industries, Lupemban industries, the Acheulian industries, the Still Bay Industries, the Mousterian Industries and the Microliths industries.
The Oldowan tools included choppers and flakes. The Acheulian tools included the hand-axes, spear – heads, arrow-heads, cleavers, knives, daggers and scrappers.

The early man

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The divisions of the culture of the early man and his cultural practices and economic practices



The divisions of the culture of the early man are:

  1. The Old Stone Age sometimes referred to as Early Stone Age or Lower Palaeolithic.

  2. The Middle Stone Age sometimes referred to as Middle Palaeolithic.

  3. The New Stone Age sometimes referred to as the late Stone Age or upper Palaeolithic.



  1. The old stone age:

Culture and economic practices

Man lived in small groups. He slept on trees and caves for fear of attack by wild animals. He walked naked and his body was covered with hair. Early man ate raw meat, birds, eggs and insects. He made simple stone tools such as hand axes and flakes using levallois technique. Finally, he hunted wild animals and gathered fruits and roots for food.



  1. The middle stone age:

Culture and economic practices

Man lived in caves. He discovered fire and lit it on the doors of caves to scare away wild animals. Man also began making and wearing clothes made of skins. He also began cooking food and roasting meat and roots.

Early man started trapping animals using pits and painting pictures of animals he hunted on the walls of caves. His language developed and finally he improved the quality of the tools he made by making them smaller, lighter, sharper, thinner and more convenient to use.

Stone tools early man made.


c:\users\daniel rhay\desktop\old-stone-age-tools.jpg

Why the discovery of fire was useful to early man

This discovery was important for the following reasons:

  1. Man warmed himself with it when it was cold.

  2. He used it to cook and therefore soften his food as well as remove poison from vegetables.

  3. He used it to light the caves where he spent the nights.

  4. Man used it to scare wild animals which posed a threat to him.

  5. He used fire to harden the tips of the tools he used such as spears and arrows.

  6. Fire assisted man when hunting because he lit it to burn bushes where animals were hiding and they escaped towards swamps and caves where he would easily kill them.

  7. He used fire to clear bushes close to his cave dwellings.

  8. Man later used fire to harden pots made of clay.

  9. The Homo Sapiens used it to clear bushes for cultivation.

  10. It improved mans food by improving flavour, improving nutrition, removing poison, softening food and cooking food.

c) The New Stone Age:

Culture and economic practices

The new Stone Age is sometimes referred to as the Upper Paleolithic period. In this period man made better microlith tools such as blades and arrow-heads. He then made composite tools such as fish harpoons and bone needles.

Man established permanent settlements and he began leading a settled life. Man then began decorating his body by use of red ochre, beads and bangles made of eggshells. He also began simple industry which included weaving, pottery, basketry and spinning.

Man developed religion and began performing religious rites and ceremonies to influence natural forces like drought, death, earthquakes and rain. He developed governmental institutions, leading to establishment of early governments.

Man began fishing using harpoons. He made better shelter such as houses made of mud and thatch. He then domesticated animals such as cats, dogs, sheep, cows, goats and chicken and finally, he began cultivating and this was the beginning of farming.



The changes early man experienced during his evolution.

The changes from early man to modern man took a very long period. Each of the changes man experienced was very important because it was the basis of his future life. It is due to these changes that modern man is at the level he is today.



Early man experienced the following important changes which helped in modernizing his culture and way of life.

  • Increase in brain capacity.

  • Development of upright posture.

  • Walking on two legs instead of walking on all fours.

  • Holding objects by use of front limbs (hands).

  • Continuous improvement of tools and weapons.

  • He discovered fire.

  • He learnt to domesticate animals and plants. This was the beginning of agriculture.

  • He improved his shelter as time went on.

  • He established religion.

  • He formed government.

  • He started simple industry such as weaving, pottery and basketry.

  • He began weaving clothes made of skins.

All the above changes helped early man to evolve to the modern man who is capable of making many inventions.

Review Questions.




  1. Identify the theories that explain the origin of human beings.

  2. Why is Africa regarded to as the home of early man?

  3. Discuss the economic and cultural activities which took place during the following:

  1. Old Stone Age

  2. Middle Stone Age

  3. Late Stone Age

  1. How was fire used during the Middle Stone Age?

  2. Discuss the cultural and economic practices of early man during the following evolution stages:

  1. Homo Habilis

  2. Homo erectus

  3. Homo Sapiens

6. Draw a map of East Africa and indicate all the archaeological sites and then describe the pattern of the distribution of these sites.


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