Form 1 History Notes : Early Man

Form 1 History Notes : Early Man

Secondary Notes
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Human beings are often referred to as ``man’’. Man is unique compared to other creatures because they are able to communicate reason, make tools and create or discover things.

The Origin Of Man.

The following theories have been advanced to explain the origin of man

  1. The creation theory- most of the major religions of the world believers in the creation theory. They claim that God created the universe and al the living creatures including man in six days. Man was created in God’s own image, the woman was created by God to provide man with a companion, God commanded them to reproduce and fill the earth, and this story is told in the book of genesis.
  2. The traditional theory- every community has his own myth or myths concerning the origin of man. Myths are symbolic stories that have a cultural meaning that attempt to explain supernatural phenomena, beliefs or practise e.g. the Yoruba of Nigeria believe that olorun (God) sent man from the sky to live on earth. The agikuyu believed that God (ngai) first created GIKUYU before God provided him with a wife called MUNBI and settled around MT. KIRINYAGA and God blessed them with 9 daughters. The ZULU of South Africa believe their origin came out of a REED.
  3. The evolution theory- this is a scientific theory that explain the origin of man through a slow process of change called evolution. The theory was stated in 1859 by Charles Darwin in his book ``on the origin of species’’. He argues that plants and animals must have evolved from simple life forms and transformed ( changed) slowly over millions of years through environmental adaptation, mutation and natural selections( mutation-change)

Mutation is the abrupt change inform dictated by climate or genetic components. Natural selection is when the stronger species out compete the weaker ones for resources. Adaptation is the last stage where surviving species isolate themselves as they adapt to the new environment; it’s therefore a process of natural but continuous changes from a lower simpler state or species.

The important aspects of Darwin theory.

  • All organisms are uniquely different based on hereditary factors from birth.
  • Although many young organisms are produced, few manage to survive and develop to maturity.
  • Organisms that mature and reproduce are able to adapt to existing environmental e.g. by mutation.
  • In view of limited resources, even after mutation it’s only the fittest animal survives but the weak ones become extinct.
  • Isolation and adaptation is the final stage in the evolution process.

The evolution of man.


  • Evolution is the process of slow or gradual change; it’s believed that living things were not in the form we see them today. 
  • The earliest living things are believed to have appeared 200 million years ago. 
  • Man experienced physical and cultural changes over millions of years; he thus transformed a primitive form to the state he is in today.
  • Man therefore shared a common ancestor with apes. 
  • Mans particular family group is called HOMONIDAE while that of the apes is called PONGIDAE through evolution and environmental adaptation, man separated from his ancestors and took his own life of development. 
  • Hominids therefore appeared which was man-like (rather than ape-like) forming the ancestors of the human family.
  • Scientists widely believed that AFRICA is the cradle of mankind before moving to EUROPE and ASIA. Existing evidence shows that the earliest apes lived around LAKE VICTORIA and RIFT VALLEY. 
  • Archaeological sites include.
  • Rusinga Island
  • Fort tenan.
  • Kariandusi.
  • olorgesailie.
  • Koobi fora.
  • Gambles cave.
  • Omo river valley.
  • Olduvai Gorge.


  • Over the years man ancestors lived in forests. 
  • Climate changes about 15 million years ago gave way to savannah grassland. 
  • Man ancestors changed both physically and mentally to cope up competition for food increase and affected man’s physical status.  
  • Man became more upright in posture.
  • The evolution of man is believed to have passed through the following stages from the earliest apes to the emergence of Homo sapiens.
  1. Aegytopithecus-probable earliest ancestor of man and apes discovered in Egypt. It’s about 33 million years old and weighs about 4 kgs, it was herbivores, it moved on fours and had a tail.
  2. Dryopithecus/ africanus/ proconsul- were discovered in Rusinga Island. It dates back to about 25 million years. It had long teeth, ate fruits, smooth forehead, and projecting face, moved on fours and lived in forests.
  3. Kenyapithecus( ramapithecus)- it lived about 12 million years ago. Discovered at fort ternan , it weighed about 18-36 kgs, had small teeth, had a lager brain and walked on two legs.
  4. Australopithecus( zinjathropus)- they were earliest hominids closer to man known as southern ape man, lived in the savannah about 4 million years ago found in olduvai gorge founded by Mrs. Mary leaky. These were four types of austrolopithecus. Robustus( strong built with powerful claws and teeth) and africanus which was smaller and slender. They had enlarged skull and jaws, walked upright with bipedal gait about 1.5 metres tall. Others include amensis( found at kanapoiand alia bay) and afarensis(lived between 4 abd 3 million years ago.)boisei

Features of the australopithecines.

  • Had an upright posture as he walked on two legs
  • Had hairy body.
  • Was short and small slender body.
  • Was strongly built with heavy shoulders
  • Had a large brain capacity of about 500cc.
  • Large face with a low forehead and stereo-scopic vision.
  • Large jaws and teeth.
  • Weighed 30-68kg
  1. Homo habilis- means handy man or practical man. He was man-like and could group objects and make tools which lived about 2 million years ago. His brain capacity was about 500-800 cm3.

Features of homo habilis.

  • Large brain capacity of about 775 cc.
  • Bigger body stature of about 5 feet.
  • Face and skull like that of modern man.
  • Used elementary speech.
  • Well developed thumb like  of modern man
  1. Homo erectus- it means upright man lived in Africa about 1 million years ago. He was claver, made achelian tools like the hand axe. He invented fire, he had a higher brain capacity between 750-1100cm3.

Features of homo erectus.

  • Had upright posture.
  • Large brain capacity.
  • Made refined tools.
  • Communicated well using speech.
  • Was large in stature of 5.5 feet tall.
  • Possessed a prominent brow ridge over the eyes.
  1. Homo sapiens- means intelligent or thinking man, it’s the name given to modern man. He had small teeth with steep rounded head. He had a higher brain capacity to about 1000-1800 cm3. He hunted, gathered and practised fishing. There are 3 sub spacies.
  • Rhodesian man
  • Had straight legs and walked with long strides.
  • Had large brain capacity.
  • Had great ridges over his eyes
  • Neanderthal man
  • It was heavily built with brow-ridges.
  • Large brain capacity.
  • Was intelligent and skilled in using his hands.
  • Ate meat from animals.
  • Cro-magnon man.
  • He was taller 
  • Had a thicker brow ridge.
  • He painted pictures.

Features of homo sapiens.

  • Had straight legs.
  • Walked on twos with long strides.
  • Had a large stature of about 6 feet tall.
  • Had small teeth.
  • Had a steep well rounded forehead.
  • 1800 cc. Brain.
  • 8) Homo sapien sapien- the most advanced creature to appear on earth. They were taller, slimmer and more intelligent.  He started domesticating crops and animals and building huts, he led a settled life.

Cultural and economic practices of early man.

  • The culture of early man can be understood through the study of Stone Age or Palaeolithic periods. 
  • The early period of hum history mean man’s tools and weapons were mainly made of stone, bone and wood. 
  • The things they made and used formed their material culture, archaeologists have divided stone age in three categories.

The old stone age (lower Palaeolithic) 300,000-200,000 years ago.

  • Man led a simple life.
  • He made few simple tools.
  • Weapons and tools are referred to as oldowan or pebble tools.
  • He made acheulian tools in the second phase of old stone age.
  • Archeulian tools were made by homo-eretus 
  • Clothing- was hairy and walked naked.
  • Shelter- did not build houses but slept on trees in forest. They used store, caves and rock as shelters.
  • These are aegytopethecus and drypethicus.
  • They ate raw meat, plants, birds and eggs.
  • They did hunting, gathering and collected food.
  • There communication was through gestures, growling and whistling.

The middle stone age (middle Palaeolithic) 200,000-50,000 years ago.

  • Man changed his life marked by great improvement.
  • Changes were attributed to superior brains.
  • Tools and weapons were improved to smaller scrappers, spears and choppers.
  • Shelter- man had known rock shelters and later livedin caves for more security, after hunting.
  • Food- hunting improved due to lighter shaper and specialized weapons. They invented fire and startedcooking his own food in neutralizes poisons.
  • Clothing- man wore animal skins; he made shells and necklaces and painted his body with red ochre and oil.
  • Communication- man improved in gesture and growing began to use clicks and grants.
  • Tools- they were called sangoan tools.

How the invention of fire changed man’s life.

  • Man could warm himself during cold night.
  • The flames of fire could be give him light at night.
  • Fire enables man to cook roots and roast meat thus increasing availability of food because a variety of roots and seed could now be cooked and eaten.
  • Fire used for hunting and confining animals in certain areas.
  • Fire was used for fighting away wild animals.
  • It improved tool making as it hardened the tip of wooden tools.
  • Early communication was through smoke and fire signals. It thus improved communication.
  • Fire was used as food preservative e.g drying meat and fish.
  • It made hominids to migrate through the world from the savannah.

New stone age (upper Palaeolithic) 50,000-15,000 years ago.

  • It’s also referred to as late Stone Age.
  • It’s associated with homo sapiens.
  • Man made great advances socially, politically and economically. There was technological advancement.
  • Advanced tools called microliths had straight sharp cutting edges glued on bone and wood e.g sickles, arrowheads, spears, bows, arrows, knives, slings, daggers and saws.
  • Shelter- he made shelter using tree branches and grass. Wall and roofs were decorated with animal paintings.
  • Food- domesticated plants and animals and thus began agriculture. He continued to hunt and gather.
  • Communication- he developed a cruel form of spoken language.
  • Rock art- drew pictures of animals and painted them. Specialized in basketry and pottery.
  • Religion- started performing rite to and ceremonies in the belief to influence natural forces like rain, drought and death. Human were buried with their tools and possessions.
  • Government- man led a settled life in permanent shelters. The social life led to setting up of rules and laws. This made some people specialize in leadership.


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