Why is Africa the cradle of humankind?

Dr. Emily Zawacki

During a process that lasted millions of years, the movement of tectonic plates split our continents apart. This process is still going on to this date. But why does it happen and how did it create the perfect conditions for life on earth?

Learn about this Garden Talk

When looking at the world map, you might have noticed that some parts of it feel like a puzzle. For example, the shape of South America seems like it could fit really well if it were to be connected to the West side of Africa. Scientists believe that’s no accident. About 300 to 200 million years ago, all the continents were likely part of a single “supercontinent” called Pangaea. But why did they all drift apart from each other? 

Earth's outermost layer keeps moving due to the heat coming from the inner core. These movements are still active today and along an arid stretch of East Africa, it’s possible to stand on the exact spot where, deep underground, the continent is still splitting apart. But it is also exactly in East Africa where we can find what is widely recognised as the place from which all of humankind originated.  

Join this fascinating talk as Dr. Emily Zawacki tells us how plate tectonic movements created the perfect conditions for life to evolve and what it is that we have yet to discover about Earth’s secret underground mechanisms.

How did plate tectonics create the perfect conditions for life? Why did all continents split apart?

Talk outline


50 minutes

What to expect

30 minute talk

20 minute Member Q&A

Dr. Emily Zawacki

Dr Emily Zawacki is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at Arizona State University working on education, outreach, and communication activities for OpenTopography and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology.

Inner Earth Collection

From secret worlds to mystical doors, subterranean land appeared in ancient mythology, and legends in all kinds of flavours. But right under our feet lies an incredible force of nature capable of keeping us alive as well as posing existential threats

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