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    Lucyan Australopithecus afarensis skeleton discovered 24 November in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia 's Afar Depression Africa is considered by most paleoanthropologists to be the oldest inhabited territory on Earthwith the human species originating from the continent. Fossil remains of several species of early apelike humans thought to have evolved into modern man, such as Australopithecus afarensis radiometrically dated to approximately 3.

    Around BC, due to a tilt in the earth's orbit, the Sahara experienced a period of rapid desertification. A major climatic recession occurred, lessening the heavy and persistent rains in Central and Eastern Africa.

    Since this time, dry conditions have prevailed in Eastern Africa and, increasingly during the last years, in Ethiopia.

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    The domestication of cattle in Africa preceded agriculture and seems to have existed alongside hunter-gatherer cultures. It is speculated that by BC, cattle were domesticated in North Africa. Around BC, the Saharan climate started to become drier at an exceedingly fast pace.

    This, in turn, decreased the amount of land conducive to settlements and helped to cause migrations of farming communities to the more tropical climate of West Africa. Ironworking was fully established by roughly BC in many areas of East and West Africa, although other regions didn't begin ironworking until the early centuries AD. Copper objects from EgyptNorth Africa, Nubia, and Ethiopia dating from around BC have been excavated in West Africa, suggesting that Trans-Saharan trade networks had been established by this date.

    At about BC, the historical record opens in Northern Africa with the rise of literacy in the Pharaonic civilization of Ancient Egypt. He founded Alexandria in Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic dynasty after his death.

    Roman settlement occurred in modern Tunisia and elsewhere along the coast. Syro-Greek missionarieswho arrived by way of the Red Sea, were responsible for this theological development.

    In a short while, the local Berber elite had been integrated into Muslim Arab tribes. Islamic North Africa had become diverse, and a hub for mystics, scholars, jurists, and philosophers. During the above-mentioned period, Islam spread to sub-Saharan Africa, mainly through trade routes and migration. These included small family groups of hunter-gatherers such as the San people of southern Africa; larger, more structured groups such as the family clan groupings of the Bantu-speaking peoples of central, southern, and eastern Africa; heavily structured clan groups in the Horn of Africa ; the large Sahelian kingdoms ; and autonomous city-states and kingdoms such as those of the Akan ; EdoYorubaand Igbo people in West Africa ; and the Swahili coastal trading towns of Southeast Africa.

    By the ninth century AD, a string of dynastic states, including the earliest Hausa states, stretched across the sub-Saharan savannah from the western regions to central Sudan. Ghana declined in the eleventh century, but was succeeded by the Mali Empire which consolidated much of western Sudan in the thirteenth century.

    Kanem accepted Islam in the eleventh century. In the forested regions of the West African coast, independent kingdoms grew with little influence from the Muslim north. The Kingdom of Nri was established around the ninth century and was one of the first. It is also one of the oldest kingdoms in present-day Nigeria and was ruled by the Eze Nri. The Nri kingdom is famous for its elaborate bronzesfound at the town of Igbo-Ukwu.

    The bronzes have been dated from as far back as the ninth century. Bowdich The Kingdom of Ifehistorically the first of these Yoruba city-states or kingdoms, established government under a priestly oba 'king' or 'ruler' in the Yoruba languagecalled the Ooni of Ife.

    Ife was noted as a major religious and cultural centre in West Africa, and for its unique naturalistic tradition of bronze sculpture. The Ife model of government was adapted at the Oyo Empirewhere its obas or kings, called the Alaafins of Oyo, once controlled a large number of other Yoruba and non-Yoruba city-states and kingdoms; the Fon Kingdom of Dahomey was one of the non-Yoruba domains under Oyo control.

    The Almoravids were a Berber dynasty from the Sahara that spread over a wide area of northwestern Africa and the Iberian peninsula during the eleventh century.

    Their migration resulted in the fusion of the Arabs and Berbers, where the locals were Arabized[54] and Arab culture absorbed elements of the local culture, under the unifying framework of Islam. Sonni Ali seized Timbuktu in and Jenne inbuilding his regime on trade revenues and the cooperation of Muslim merchants. His successor Askia Mohammad I — made Islam the official religion, built mosques, and brought to Gao Muslim scholars, including al-Maghili d.

    Until the fifteenth century, these small states were on the periphery of the major Sudanic empires of the era, paying tribute to Songhai to the west and Kanem-Borno to the east. The Ottomans controlled much of Northern Africa between the 14th and 19th centuries, and had vassal arrangements with a number of Saharan states.

    Mansa Musa ruled the Mali Empire in the 14th century. Arab slave trade and Atlantic slave trade Arab—Swahili slave traders and their captives along the Ruvuma River in today's Tanzania and Mozambique as witnessed by David Livingstone Slavery had long been practiced in Africa. Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, the Atlantic slave trade took an estimated 7—12 million slaves to the New World.

    The gradual decline of slave-trading, prompted by a lack of demand for slaves in the New Worldincreasing anti-slavery legislation in Europe and America, and the British Royal Navy's increasing presence off the West African coast, obliged African states to adopt new economies.

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    Between andthe British West Africa Squadron seized approximately 1, slave ships and freedAfricans who were aboard. Anti-slavery treaties were signed with over 50 African rulers. Asante and Dahomey concentrated on the development of "legitimate commerce" in the form of palm oilcocoatimber and goldforming the bedrock of West Africa's modern export trade. The Oyo Empire, unable to adapt, collapsed into civil wars.

    Areas of Africa under the sovereignty or influence of the colonial powers inalong with modern borders.
    Acknowledgements Introduction his document discusses the way radiometric dating and stratigraphic principles are used to establish the conventional geological time scale.

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    It is not about the theory behind radiometric dating methods, it is about their application, and it therefore assumes the reader has some familiarity with the technique already refer to "Other Sources" for more information. As an example of how they are used, radiometric dates from geologically simple, fossiliferous Cretaceous rocks in western North America are compared to the geological time scale.

    To get to that point, there is also a historical discussion and description of non-radiometric dating methods. A common form of criticism is to cite geologically complicated situations where the application of radiometric dating is very challenging.

    These are often characterised as the norm, rather than the exception. I thought it would be useful to present an example where the geology is simple, and unsurprisingly, the method does work well, to show the quality of data that would have to be invalidated before a major revision of the geologic time scale could be accepted by conventional scientists.

    Geochronologists do not claim that radiometric dating is foolproof no scientific method isbut it does work reliably for most samples. It is these highly consistent and reliable samples, rather than the tricky ones, that have to be falsified for "young Earth" theories to have any scientific plausibility, not to mention the need to falsify huge amounts of evidence from other techniques.

    This document is partly based on a prior posting composed in reply to Ted Holden. My thanks to both him and other critics for motivating me. Background Stratigraphic Principles and Relative Time Much of the Earth's geology consists of successional layers of different rock types, piled one on top of another. The most common rocks observed in this form are sedimentary rocks derived from what were formerly sedimentsand extrusive igneous rocks e.

    The layers of rock are known as "strata", and the study of their succession is known as "stratigraphy". Fundamental to stratigraphy are a set of simple principles, based on elementary geometry, empirical observation of the way these rocks are deposited today, and gravity.

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    A few principles were recognized and specified later. An early summary of them is found in Charles Lyell's Principles of Geologypublished inand does not differ greatly from a modern formulation: The principle of superposition - in a vertical sequence of sedimentary or volcanic rocks, a higher rock unit is younger than a lower one. The principle of original horizontality - rock layers were originally deposited close to horizontal.

    The principle of original lateral extension - A rock unit continues laterally unless there is a structure or change to prevent its extension. The principle of cross-cutting relationships - a structure that cuts another is younger than the structure that is cut. The principle of inclusion - a structure that is included in another is older than the including structure. The principle of "uniformitarianism" - processes operating in the past were constrained by the same "laws of physics" as operate today.

    Note that these are principles. In no way are they meant to imply there are no exceptions. For example, the principle of superposition is based, fundamentally, on gravity. In order for a layer of material to be deposited, something has to be beneath it to support it.

    It can't float in mid-air, particularly if the material involved is sand, mud, or molten rock. The principle of superposition therefore has a clear implication for the relative age of a vertical succession of strata. There are situations where it potentially fails -- for example, in cave deposits. In this situation, the cave contents are younger than both the bedrock below the cave and the suspended roof above.

    However, note that because of the " principle of cross-cutting relationships"careful examination of the contact between the cave infill and the surrounding rock will reveal the true relative age relationships, as will the "principle of inclusion" if fragments of the surrounding rock are found within the infill. Cave deposits also often have distinctive structures of their own e. These geological principles are not assumptions either.

    Each of them is a testable hypothesis about the relationships between rock units and their characteristics. They are applied by geologists in the same sense that a "null hypothesis" is in statistics -- not necessarily correct, just testable. In the last or more years of their application, they are often valid, but geologists do not assume they are. They are the "initial working hypotheses" to be tested further by data. Using these principles, it is possible to construct an interpretation of the sequence of events for any geological situation, even on other planets e.

    The simplest situation for a geologist is a "layer cake" succession of sedimentary or extrusive igneous rock units arranged in nearly horizontal layers.

    In such a situation, the " principle of superposition" is easily applied, and the strata towards the bottom are older, those towards the top are younger.

    Sedimentary beds in outcrop, a graphical plot of a stratigraphic section, and a "way up" indicator example: For example, wave ripples have their pointed crests on the "up" side, and more rounded troughs on the "down" side.

    Many other indicators are commonly present, including ones that can even tell you the angle of the depositional surface at the time "geopetal structures""assuming" that gravity was "down" at the time, which isn't much of an assumption: In more complicated situations, like in a mountain belt, there are often faults, folds, and other structural complications that have deformed and "chopped up" the original stratigraphy.

    Despite this, the "principle of cross cutting relationships" can be used to determine the sequence of deposition, folds, and faults based on their intersections -- if folds and faults deform or cut across the sedimentary layers and surfaces, then they obviously came after deposition of the sediments. You can't deform a structure e.

    Even in complex situations of multiple deposition, deformation, erosion, deposition, and repeated events, it is possible to reconstruct the sequence of events. Even if the folding is so intense that some of the strata is now upside down, this fact can be recognized with "way up" indicators.

    No matter what the geologic situation, these basic principles reliably yield a reconstructed history of the sequence of events, both depositional, erosional, deformational, and others, for the geology of a region.

    This reconstruction is tested and refined as new field information is collected, and can be and often is done completely independently of anything to do with other methods e. The reconstructed history of events forms a "relative time scale", because it is possible to tell that event A occurred prior to event B, which occurred prior to event C, regardless of the actual duration of time between them.

    Sometimes this study is referred to as "event stratigraphy", a term that applies regardless of the type of event that occurs biologic, sedimentologic, environmental, volcanic, magnetic, diagenetic, tectonic, etc. These simple techniques have widely and successfully applied since at least the early s, and by the early s, geologists had recognized that many obvious similarities existed in terms of the independently-reconstructed sequence of geologic events observed in different parts of the world.

    One of the earliest relative time scales based upon this observation was the subdivision of the Earth's stratigraphy and therefore its historyinto the "Primary", "Secondary", "Tertiary", and later "Quaternary" strata based mainly on characteristic rock types in Europe. The latter two subdivisions, in an emended form, are still used today by geologists. The earliest, "Primary" is somewhat similar to the modern Paleozoic and Precambrian, and the "Secondary" is similar to the modern Mesozoic.

    Another observation was the similarity of the fossils observed within the succession of strata, which leads to the next topic.

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    Biostratigraphy As geologists continued to reconstruct the Earth's geologic history in the s and early s, they quickly recognized that the distribution of fossils within this history was not random -- fossils occurred in a consistent order. This was true at a regional, and even a global scale. Furthermore, fossil organisms were more unique than rock types, and much more varied, offering the potential for a much more precise subdivision of the stratigraphy and events within it.

    The recognition of the utility of fossils for more precise "relative dating" is often attributed to William Smith, a canal engineer who observed the fossil succession while digging through the rocks of southern England. But scientists like Albert Oppel hit upon the same principles at about about the same time or earlier. In Smith's case, by using empirical observations of the fossil succession, he was able to propose a fine subdivision of the rocks and map out the formations of southern England in one of the earliest geological maps Other workers in the rest of Europe, and eventually the rest of the world, were able to compare directly to the same fossil succession in their areas, even when the rock types themselves varied at finer scale.

    For example, everywhere in the world, trilobites were found lower in the stratigraphy than marine reptiles. Dinosaurs were found after the first occurrence of land plants, insects, and amphibians.

    Spore-bearing land plants like ferns were always found before the occurrence of flowering plants.

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    The observation that fossils occur in a consistent succession is known as the "principle of faunal and floral succession". The study of the succession of fossils and its application to relative dating is known as "biostratigraphy". Each increment of time in the stratigraphy could be characterized by a particular assemblage of fossil organisms, formally termed a biostratigraphic "zone" by the German paleontologists Friedrich Quenstedt and Albert Oppel.

    These zones could then be traced over large regions, and eventually globally. Groups of zones were used to establish larger intervals of stratigraphy, known as geologic "stages" and geologic "systems". The time corresponding to most of these intervals of rock became known as geologic "ages" and "periods", respectively. By the end of the s, most of the presently-used geologic periods had been established based on their fossil content and their observed relative position in the stratigraphy e.

    These terms were preceded by decades by other terms for various geologic subdivisions, and although there was subsequent debate over their exact boundaries e. By the s, fossil succession had been studied to an increasing degree, such that the broad history of life on Earth was well understood, regardless of the debate over the names applied to portions of it, and where exactly to make the divisions.

    All paleontologists recognized unmistakable trends in morphology through time in the succession of fossil organisms. This observation led to attempts to explain the fossil succession by various mechanisms. Perhaps the best known example is Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Note that chronologically, fossil succession was well and independently established long before Darwin's evolutionary theory was proposed in Fossil succession and the geologic time scale are constrained by the observed order of the stratigraphy -- basically geometry -- not by evolutionary theory.

    Calibrating the Relative Time Scale For almost the next years, geologists operated using relative dating methods, both using the basic principles of geology and fossil succession biostratigraphy. Various attempts were made as far back as the s to scientifically estimate the age of the Earth, and, later, to use this to calibrate the relative time scale to numeric values refer to "Changing views of the history of the Earth" by Richard Harter and Chris Stassen.

    Most of the early attempts were based on rates of deposition, erosion, and other geological processes, which yielded uncertain time estimates, but which clearly indicated Earth history was at least million or more years old.

    A challenge to this interpretation came in the form of Lord Kelvin's William Thomson's calculations of the heat flow from the Earth, and the implication this had for the age -- rather than hundreds of millions of years, the Earth could be as young as tens of million of years old.

    This evaluation was subsequently invalidated by the discovery of radioactivity in the last years of the 19th century, which was an unaccounted for source of heat in Kelvin's original calculations. With it factored in, the Earth could be vastly older. Estimates of the age of the Earth again returned to the prior methods.

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    The discovery of radioactivity also had another side effect, although it was several more decades before its additional significance to geology became apparent and the techniques became refined. Because of the chemistry of rocks, it was possible to calculate how much radioactive decay had occurred since an appropriate mineral had formed, and how much time had therefore expired, by looking at the ratio between the original radioactive isotope and its product, if the decay rate was known.

    Many geological complications and measurement difficulties existed, but initial attempts at the method clearly demonstrated that the Earth was very old. In fact, the numbers that became available were significantly older than even some geologists were expecting -- rather than hundreds of millions of years, which was the minimum age expected, the Earth's history was clearly at least billions of years long.

    Radiometric dating provides numerical values for the age of an appropriate rock, usually expressed in millions of years. Therefore, by dating a series of rocks in a vertical succession of strata previously recognized with basic geologic principles see Stratigraphic principles and relative timeit can provide a numerical calibration for what would otherwise be only an ordering of events -- i. The integration of relative dating and radiometric dating has resulted in a series of increasingly precise "absolute" i.

    Given the background above, the information used for a geologic time scale can be related like this: How relative dating of events and radiometric numeric dates are combined to produce a calibrated geological time scale. In this example, the data demonstrates that "fossil B time" was somewhere between and million years ago, and that "fossil A time" is older than million years ago.
    African History African Origin of Modern Humans As for Africa, scientists have formerly concluded that it is the birthplace of mankind, as large numbers of human-like fossils discovered no where else were found on the continent, some dating back 3.

    They became aggressive hunters, lived in caves and used fire and their ability to create stone tools just to survive.

    The Neanderthals arose someyears ago and inhabited regions in northern Africa and across parts of southern Europe. There is also clear evidence that they had control of fire, lived in caves, as well as open-air structures of stone and vegetation. One of the most important developments of primitive man was the creation of stone tools. By BC farming was somewhat common in the northern areas of Africa, as people were growing crops and herding livestock. During that time the Sahara Desert was a fertile area.

    Ancient African History In BC the Egyptian culture emerged along the lower reaches of the Nile River; it was among the earliest civilizations and their tools and weapons were made of bronze. They also pioneered the building of massive pyramids and temples. Egyptians also developed mathematics, an innovative system of medicine, irrigation and agricultural production techniques, writing and the first ships.

    In short, the Egyptians left a lasting legacy upon the world. Around BC the use of metal tools spread across small population bases and farming groups in North Africa, and their use gradually spread south into what is now called South Africa. Meanwhile, the Egyptians continued to spread their culture across Northern Africa, and kingdoms were created in Ethiopia and Sudan. Before the Middle Ages began, the Roman Empire collapsed and the Arabs quickly took their place on the continent.

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    In they invaded Tunis and Carthage and soon controlled all of coastal North Africa. Soon kingdoms emerged in Africa; they traded with the Arabs using gold plus a valuable commodity - slaves. One of the first kingdoms was Ghana, located in what is now southeastern Mauritania and western Mali.

    The empire grew rich from the trans-Saharan trade in gold and salt, but then lost its power in the 11th century. Additional kingdoms developed across the continent, including those in Benin and Mali. Both became rich by trading in gold, horse salt, and of course, slaves. And like most kingdoms before them on any continent, they were invaded and in the end destroyed. Mogadishu, the now largest city in Somalia, was settled by Arabs who traveled and traded on the east coast of Africa.

    The Arabs' reach extended to Zanzibar, which was used as a base for voyages between the Middle East and India. As other organized kingdoms were formed in central and southern Africa, the Portuguese began to explore the western coast of Africa. They even sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. African Colonization and the Slave Trade The continent-changing 16th Century began with Europeans transporting African slaves to the Americas for profit.

    A slave purchased on the African coast for the equivalent of 14 English pounds in bartered goods could sell for 45 pounds in the American market. The best-known method of commerce at the time was called the Triangular Trading System.

    It involved British and other European countries' manufactured goods which were shipped to Africa, then slaves from there to the West Indies and then sugar and other products back to Europe.

    At the same time, Barbary pirates along the North African coast captured thousands of ships. From the 16th to 19th century, an estimatedto 1.

    The pirates' impact on the continent, however, peaked in the early to midth century. As tales of African riches spread north, the Europeans founded their first real colonies in the early 16th century, when the Portuguese settled in what is now Angola. Later, the Dutch founded a colony in what is now South Africa.

    Strong movements to end slavery began in the late 18th century. France became one of the first countries to abolish slavery in Britain banned slave trade inbut it was not officially abolished for good until In some parts of Africa, slave-like practices continue to this day and have proven difficult to eliminate. Carved up like a large pie, the Brits, Dutch, French, Germans and Portuguese grabbed all of the available pieces. By the end of the 19th century, from Algeria to Zimbabwe, and from Botswana to Niger, the continent was now all but controlled by European powers.

    In the early 20th century the land grab continued as the British took control of Egypt. Bythe forced occupation of African lands began to sour in Europe, and change was in the wind.

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    Africans were also driven by their passionate desire for independence and the movement for same became unstoppable. By mid-century most of the continent was independent, with Angola finally free in Significant economic and social gains have taken place over the last few years, with South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt leading the way. The largest segments of modern Africa's economies are agriculture and mining, with tourism growing in some areas.

    Manufacturing industries have grown large enough to ship products across the planet, and the oil export revenues of Angola, Libya and Nigeria have the potential to change the lives of millions. Today the 54 countries of Africa have great potential, but this question must be asked: Africa Geography Facts For additional geography details please use the yellow navigation bar at the top of this page.

    The Nile is a north-flowing river considered the longest river in the world at 6, km 4, mi long. It is shared by and benefits eleven countries. The White Nile and Blue Nile are its major tributaries. The Blue Nile is the source of most of the water and both rivers join near Khartoum, Sudan The northern section of the river flows almost entirely through desert, from Sudan into Egypt.

    The Nile ends in a large delta that empties into the Mediterranean Sea. It's the world's hottest desert, the third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic, and almost as large as China. Covering almost one-third of the continent, the Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world at approximately 3, sq. Topography includes areas of rock-strewn plains, rolling sand dunes and numerous sand seas. It ranges in elevation from ft.

    Regional deserts include the Libyan, Nubian and the Western desert of Egypt, just to the west of the Nile. Almost completely without rainfall, a few underground rivers flow from the Atlas Mountains, helping to irrigate isolated oases. In the east, the waters of the Nile help fertilize smaller parts of the landscape.

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