The Origins Africa has a huge mass spreading across two hemispheres, embracing the Equator and comprising a great variety of climate zones. This is why, during the radical changes which characterized our planet’s geological history, this gigantic tectonic plate always hosted areas offering favourable climatic conditions and which could be easily reached by on-land migration. In Africa, that natural passageway connecting different climates and regions is called Rift Valley. It is a deep depression gathering rivers and fresh water, flanked by high mountain ranges which – along an extension of 6,000 km – links Mozambique with the Syrian Highlands. Our early ancestors, the Hominidae, lived along this geological rift over 4 million years ago. At the time, Europe was still under a blanket of ice, but the evolution of mankind had already begun here, in Africa, the ancestral land of signs and legends. Lake Natron, Rift Valley, Tanzania George Steinmetz The shadow of a plane flying over the salt crust covering the lake’s surface in the African Rift Valley. The Rift Valley is a deep and continuous geographic trench, 6,000 km-long, that runs north to south from Syria to Mozambique, across the Red Sea and the great African lakes. It originated from the separation of the plate boundaries of Africa and Asia which occurred 15 million years ago, and creating a fracture several kilometres deep in some places and from 30 to 100 km wide. Lake Natron is a saline lake which in prehistoric times held abundant freshwater reserves. Today, due to high levels of evaporation, it is only 3 metres deep, a level which varies, depending on rainfall. The lake takes its name from Natron, a sodium-carbonate rich mineral that precipitates, forming large encrustations. The red colour is due to the presence of salt-loving microorganisms that thrive when temperatures rise to 50°Celsius and salinity increases. Natron – which in antiquity was used in mummification ceremonies as it absorbs water and acts as a drying agent- makes the lake’s waters similar to ammonia, and particularly hostile to life. Despite this, in Eastern Africa, it is where the Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) comes to breed, feeding on the water’s plentiful micro-organisms.