(Chapter II, section 9)

Aurignacian man in East Africa

The Aurignacian culture, the racial connotations of which we have just reviewed in Europe, Palestine, and, in the guise of Capsian and Oranian, in North Africa, also extended southward to East Africa.52 Here, as in Algeria, microliths were present in the midst of other forms more typical of Europe and western Asia.53 While the correlation of the pluvial periods of East Africa with the glacial phases farther north is still under discussion, it is probably safe to conclude that the Kenya and Tanganyika Lower Aurignacian was roughly equivalent in time to Upper Palaeolithic horizons elsewhere, although the Upper Aurignacian may have lasted much later, in view of the fact that East Africa was a racial and cultural frontier and a marginal area.

The remains of six Upper Aurignacian men have been discovered in the two colonies named. Five of these were exhumed by Leakey at Gamble’s Cave, Elementitia,54 and the sixth is the famous Oldoway skull discovered by Reck in 1914.55 Two of the Gamble’s Cave specimens, and Oldoway, which are all masculine, consist of nearly complete skulls and long bones. The others from Gamble’s Cave are too fragmentary to be of much value.

In general, these specimens belong in the purely sapiens category, as represented by Galley Hill, Kanjera, Grimaldi, Combe Capelle, and Afalou #28. At the same time, however, they differ from all named in one important respect—they are extremely tall, with statures of 177, 179, and 180 cm., which even exceeds the Crô-Magnon and later Afalou figures, but the great stature is unaccompanied by the broad shoulders and bodily bulk of the hybrid Europeans and North Africans. The long bones are very slender, and the hands and feet small and narrow.

The same principle of attenuation applies to the faces. In all of them, and especially in Oldoway, the faces are extremely narrow, and very long, especially in the upper segments. The browridges are weak, the zygomatic arches feebly developed, the mandibles light and slender, with narrow bigonial diameters, and weak, although positive, chins. The orbits are high and narrow, and the noses likewise. The Gamble’s Cave skulls are leptorrhine, leptene and leptoprosopic; Oldoway is mesorrhine, and hyperleptoprosopic. The two Gamble’s Cave skulls are orthognathous, but Oldoway possesses considerable alveolar prognathism.

In vault size, these crania resemble Combe Capelle and Afalou #28, rather than the European and North African crania of later Aurignacian and Oranian date. Oldoway and Gamble’s Cave #4 are higher and narrower than the European Upper Palaeolithic mean; Gamble’s Cave #5, which is the skull of an adolescent, is shorter, higher, and nearly as broad. The foreheads are gently sloping and rounded; the occiputs projecting, but without the lambdoidal flattening which characterizes the European crania. The total impression is one of thinness and delicacy.

In the morphology of the head and face, these three specimens are not exactly alike. Gamble’s Cave #5, which has a cranial index of 74, is nearest to the European standard; while the two others, Gamble’s #4, with an index of 71, and Oldoway, with 64.5, are decreasingly so. But they are closer in many ways to modern European racial types than are the Upper palaeolithic skulls. They seem, however, to have been subjected to some influence which has made all extremities, including both limbs and face, extremely long and thin. One may compare this with the modern changes in the English stock settled in Queensland.56

Both of the Gamble’s Cave skulls seem to be fully or nearly “white” in the skeletal sense, but Oldoway is, in a way difficult to analyze, perceptibly negroid. Many modern tribes of East Africa, including the Somalis and Masai, and the upper classes of others such as the Bahimas, show today the same general features which are found in these pluvial period skulls, particularly in Oldoway. These modern Hamites have long spindly legs, thin hands, and narrow wrists, while their bodies are correspondingly thin and attenuated. Their skulls are universally long, smoothly contoured, and lacking in strong muscular markings. Their noses are narrow and often highly arched, their jaws light and narrow, their faces long and thin. All of these modern East African Hamites show a certain amount of negroid admixture, but their skulls are considerably smaller than the three from the pluvial period.

On the basis of head size, if for no other reason, these skulls cannot be dismissed as intrusive burials from later periods. Mollison, who has Studied the Oldoway skull, is convinced that it is as fully fossilized as the bones of the other fauna of the period to which it is now attributed.57 The only reasonable conclusion is that the modern Hamite is ancient in East Africa, and is at least partially descended from this ancestral, purely sapiens, form. At the same time we may be equally sure that modern post glacial Europeans of Mediterranean type did not come from this particular corner of Africa; that whatever the date of these specimens in years, East Africa was not, in Upper Palaeolithic times, the center of Mediterranean racial evolution.

Neither, it would appear, was the Sahara; so far the archaeologists have not found evidences of the Upper Palaeolithic Capsian culture in the central zone of the desert itself, where there is at present a gap between the Levalloisian and what appears to be an early, arrow-chipping Neolithic in Capsian tradition. The Capsian apparently came to North Africa from the east, and the mid-Sahara may have served even during Pleistocene times as a dividing line between white and negroid humanity, just as it does today. At the same time it is likely that the Empty Quarter of southern Arabia even in those days functioned as a barrier between Mediterraneans and Veddoids.58 Although what are now the edges of deserts may have been breeding grounds of white humanity during the Pleistocene, the great deserts themselves have always been racial frontiers.


52 Leakey, L. S. B., Stone Age Africa, pp. 38—74.

Garrod, Miss D. A. E., RBAA, Pres. Ad., Sect. H.

54 Leakey, L. S. B., The Stone Age Races of Kenya, pp. 47—56; Stone Age Africa, p. 172.

55 Reck, H., Oldoway, die Schlucht des Urmenschen, Leipzig, 1933.
Mollison, T., and Gieseler, W., VGPA, vol. 3, 1929, pp. 50—59, 60—67.
Boule, M., and Vallois, H., L’Homme fossile d’Asselar, AIPH, Mem. 9, pp. 60—64.

56 I can find no adequate references to this phenomenon but common observation attests its existence.

57 And not of the Lower Palaeolithic horizon to which it was first ascribed, Boule M., and Vallois, H., AIPH, Mem. 13, 1934, pp. 60—64.
Mollison, T., and Gieseler, W., VGPA, vol. 3, 1929, pp. 60—67.
Leakey, L. S. B., Stone Age Africa, pp. 172173.

58 See Chapter XI, section 6, for a discussion of the Veddoids in southern Arabia.