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Historic places: Around Nakuru


Kariandusi excavation site. Trip Advisor Before reaching Nakuru along the main road A104, at the right hand, lies the Kariandusi prehistoric site, managed by the National Museums of Kenya.

The site, of the Acheulean period, was discovered in 1928 by famous paleoanthropologist Louis S.B. Leakey. Excavations would later be run by his sons. The site hosts a museum and two excavated areas. The remains have been dated to the lower Pleistocene period, 0.7-1 million years ago.

Studies suggest that it was not a place of permanent dwelling, rather a workshop, according to the amount of stone hand axes and cleavers found. Many of these tools are made with obsidian, a vitreous black volcanic rock. Possibly the Kariandusi men killed here the animals they used for food and manufactured on site the tools they needed for this task.

Concerning the identity of these dwellers, everything seems to point to 'Homo erectus'. Later on they would be bound to leave their settling when the water level rose up to several hundreds of meters above the current level of Nakuru and Elmenteita lakes.

Next to the site there is an open air diatomite mine. Diatomite is a silicon rock originated by compression of the skeletons of diatoms, microscopic algae with an external silicon cover consisting of two pieces that fit each other as a box and its lid. The rock is industrially used as an abrassive, as a filtering material for brewing and as an absorbent for killing weevils by dehydration in grain silos, as well as for manufacturing paints and insulation materials. Traditionally, the Kikuyu people use this rock for body painting or 'karia andus', hence the name.

The site is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

More information: Kariandusi official website


Bau game carved in the rock at Hyrax Hill, Nakuru. Javier Yanes/ Just a couple of miles (3.5 km) before reaching Nakuru, turning right from the A104, lies the Hyrax Hill prehistoric site, run by the National Museums of Kenya.

The hill that hosts the site was named in the early 20th century after the rock hyrax, a small mammal that lives in the crevices of rocks and were abundant at the site in those days.

It was renowned scientist Louis Leakey who in 1926 came aware of the remains in the area, though excavations wouldn't start until 1937 under the direction of his wife Mary and would be continued in following decades by other researchers. The place seems to have been an island or a peninsula, since the works have shown the remains of primeval beaches that would probably border a huge lake, possibly a fresh water inland sea that 8,500 years ago covered Nakuru and Elmenteita.

The excavation works unearthed a set of remains that cover the past 3,000 years. Overall three settlings were identified, sometimes superimposed, which were inhabited from the Neolithic period through the Iron Age. The tombs belonging to the most ancient Hyrax Hill dwellers preserve nineteen skeletons, those corresponding to women carefully adorned and surrounded by household items. On top of this old necropolis another one was built during the Iron Age. Curiously enough, this one also rendered nineteen skeletons.

Other Iron Age remains comprise a walled fort and several stone circles which might correspond to huts' basements and/or pens for cattle. The remains at the settling called northeast village suggest that probably not all the dwellings were used at the same time, rather they were built and inhabited until they became unusable and replaced then by newer ones in a nearby area. There is even the possibility that the place was occupied by only a single family or that it was just a seasonal settling. Its owners could have been Kalenjin or Sirikwa pastoralists, who possibly left their territories upon being invaded by the Maasai, fleeing to settle then at their current lands.

As an oddity, the rocky hill is carved in various places with marks that suggest boards for playing Bau (in the image), the Bantu name for a game which even today is very popular in Africa and Arabia. Finally, the adjacent museum displays several pieces of ceramic, glass and stone tools, as well as informative panels on the diverse Rift Valley cultures.

The site is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

More information: Hyrax Hill official website


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