Africa – The Paleohistory

Paleohistory, or archaeology, is the study of physical remains that societies of humans and animals have left long after their own demise. These remains usually include bones, fossils, tools or implements and rock art.

The Mesozoic Era refers to a period in which flowering plants decorated the surface of the earth, which was traversed by dinosaurs at this time. This era extends between 230 and 65 million years ago and, therefore, also includes the extinction of these fascinating giants and their smaller counterparts. During this time, Africa is believed to have been attached to all other continents in one solid mass, called Pangaea, supercontinent or Gondwana (beginning about 300 million years ago). This continent boasted vegetation throughout its expanse, and dinosaurs had free reign as they travelled these plains and fed off each other and the flora.

The Triassic period was part of the Mesozoic Era and was defined by the advent of the dinosaurs, as well as of coniferous forests. Remains and fossils from the Triassic period have more often been found in southern Africa, confirming its status for those scientists who believe it to be the original Cradle of Humankind.

The Jurassic period extended between 190 and 140 million years ago and was marked, not only by the existence of dinosaurs (as with the entire Mesozoic Era), but also with the arrival of different bird- and mammal species. Again, the fossil beds in the south of Africa are more productive, yielding more prehistorical remains. These have provided researchers with evidence on which to base their hypotheses regarding the origin of modern-day man as well as the types of animals alive and the implements used at that time.

While the beginning of the Mesozoic Era (up till the end of the Triassic time) displayed the domination of theropods, prosauropods and primitive ornithischians, the beginning of the Jurassic period saw larger dinosaurs, such as the sauropods and ornithopods. Not much is known about the rest of the Jurassic era, except for what has been revealed by the magnificent Tendaguru beds in Tanzania. These fossilised beds have proved most productive and an invaluable resource for researchers studying this period.

Then, approximately 155 million years ago (halfway through the Mesozoic Era), Madagascar split from what is now the continent of Africa, but was still attached to the rest of the landmass at India, ensuring that it remained connected to Gondwana. The fossils found here are from abelisaurs and titanosaurs.

The Cretaceous epoch was the last of the Mesozoic Era, and lasted 80 million years. At its beginning, India and Madagascar are believed to have split from Gondwana, and then from one another. While Madagascar continued to develop and home a variety of fascinating prehistoric fauna and flora, the continent of Africa stabilised. The rest of Pangaea, however, shifted, and continents supposedly broke off from the mainland, creating identities of their own. It was when South America separated itself from Africa in the late Cretaceous Epoch that the Atlantic Ocean’s southern region was complete. The positioning of these land masses forced this vast body of water to alter its currents, which affected the climate of both the southern and northern hemispheres.

While these continents were splitting and developing in their own rights, Africa was being roamed by allosauroids and spinosaurids. Those fossil beds and other archaeological sites that hale from this Cretaceous period are more abundant than those of the Jurassic period. However, restrictions and deficiencies in the fields of research and technology have made it impossible to ascertain the exact ages of the discoveries to date. While almost all researchers who feel passionately about Africa and the fossils it has already produced believe this to be the Cradle of Humankind, it is clear that vast amounts of development and advancement are required in order to establish a clear and detailed record of this fascinating era in human and African history