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Origin Stories
Origin Stories are stories that we
humans tell ourselves about where
our species, and oftentimes our
cultures, originally came from!
The origin story told by Biological
Anthropologists is called “Evolution,”
the scientifically proven theory that
living things change over time and
that existing species give rise to new
Throughout human history,
different cultures have told very
different stories about where and
how their people or “the people”
(often referring to their specific
culture) originated.
There are over 10 million Yoruba-speaking
people in Nigeria and over 10 million
Yoruba and Yoruba-descended people who
have migrated throughout the world—about
25 million Yoruba people in 2006.
The term “Yoruba” refers to: 1) a language;
2) an ethnicity; and 3) a culture
Millions of Yoruba slaves were captured and
held as slaves between 1400-1800 and thus
have descendents throughout the
Caribbean, South America, and North
ODUDUWA is the
legendary creator of
the Yoruba.
supreme deity.
Before there was
life on earth,
Olodumare called
OBATALA, one of 12
“arch” deities.
Bronze Statue of Ooni of Ife
in full regalia at Ife Museum
Olodumare decided he wanted to
create dry land on the waters of
the Earth, Ile Aye
Olodumare gave Obatala ase
(power) to make land:
1) snail filled with earth
2) 5-toed chicken
3) palm nuts
“How do I make
the journey?”
“Gather all the
gold in the sky
and take it to
OGUN.” Ogun
forged a gold
chain to link the
sky with the
Then Ogun flung the
chain towards Earth
and Obatala began to
descend, BUT the last
rung was still far from
waters of earth!
Obatala removed the
snail shell from pouch
and sprinkled earth soil
on waters.
He dropped the 5-toed
chicken on the land,
and it started to scratch
and spread the dirt
across the surface of
the waters.
When Obatala saw
firm ground, he
dropped a palm nut
on the land, which
sprouted into a
palm tree.
The palm tree grew
to reach the last
rung of the gold
chain, so Obatala
climbed into the
palm tree.
Palm Trees in Abeokuta, NI
Then, Obatala started to mold humans from
the earth clay, but he became tired and
made palm wine from the fruit of the tree
and got drunk! So, he accidentally created
humans with some abnormalities—like
blindness or skin conditions. But he kept
drinking until he fell asleep!
Olodumare gave the task of finishing
Creation to Oduduwa, who told Obatala that
it was taboo to drink palm wine again.
Obatala then agreed to protect all children
and humans born with physical challenges.
Oduduwa then went on to finish
creating the human species!
Or…(another version) When Obatala
woke up, he was embarrassed and
apologetic. Olodumare forgave him
and then gave him the responsibility
of molding the physical bodies of
human beings.
The Cradle of Yoruba Civilization
Ile-Ife: A University Town in 2006
Obafemi Awolowo University (“UnIfe”)
Copyright ©2005 Faculty of Pharmacy
Obafemi Awolowo University, ile-ife.
Biological Anthropology
Origin Story
Evolution: fact, theory, hypothesis
= Living things change over time,
existing species give rise to new
Humans belong to a single species
that exhibits considerable
variation in behavior, size, shape,
and appearance.
Biological Anthropology
Origin Story
All humans belong to the species
Homo sapiens, a name coined by the
18th century naturalist, Carl
Homo sapiens evolved from other
species of genus Homo, probably in
East Africa. The fossil evidence dates
to 130,00 years ago in Ethiopia!
Biological Anthropology
For purposes of Origin Story
Linnaeus placed
Homo sapiens with
the anatomically
similar apes,
monkeys, and lemurs
into a group that he
called Primates. In
modern view, the
Order Primates
contains humans and
their nearest
nonhuman relatives.
Ape: Orangutan
Snub-nosed Monkey
Ring-tailed Lemurs