Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sketches of a trip : Eritrea 2011

Sketch Three

One of the things that I do in Asmara is to visit Dr. Yosief Libsekal, Director of the National Museum of Eritrea, in his office. As usual, he was very gracious and humble in receiving me and we discussed the various activities that the National Museum is engaged in. While discussing their activities, I found out that Dr. Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro, research professor of ICREA (Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats), Spain, was in Asmara and that he was going to leave the same evening. I told Dr. Yosief that I was interested in meeting and interviewing Dr. Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro about the extraordinary 1 million year old bull skull, Bos buiaensis, found in Buia, Eritrea. Dr. Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro agreed to be interviewed that afternoon. I was also introduced to Tsegai Medin, a young Eritrean archeologist, a student of Dr. Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro. Currently, Tsegai is director of research at the Eritrean National Museum. If I am not mistaken, at the time of Eritrea’s independence in 1991, there was only one archeologist. Now there are over 40 young archeologists working in different parts of the country. Proof of Eritrea's investment on its human development resources. Tsegai graduated with a Master’s degree from University of Catalina in Spain and is going to continue with his PhD studies.

Dr. Bienvenido Martinez-Navarro (on the left)

Archeologist,Tsegai Medin, director of research
at the Eritrean National Museum

Even though the filming was unexpected and unplanned, I rushed home, ate fast, skipped the traditional coffee ceremony, grabbed my camera and went to catch my ride to the National Museum. When I got there Dr. Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro and Tsegai had already set up the famous Bos buiaensis on the table. I could not believe the size of the horn on the bull! It was found in 200 fragments, and after it was reconstructed, its length is 2 meters. Even though I’ve read and heard about the different finds, it dawned on me that Eritrea is becoming not only a center of major mineral activities (Bisha, Zara, Colluli and etc.), a modern “El Dorado” if you will, but also a center of major archeological finds in places such as Buia, Adulis, Asmara, Mendefera, and etc. In other words, Eritrea has become a “gold mine” for mineralogists, archeologists and now cyclologists (with the win of the 7th UCI African Continental Cycling Championships in October 2011, a cyclologist is my made-up term for scouts who look for best cyclists).

Below are some of the points that Dr. Bienvenido Martinez-Narvarro made and also some examples of major archeological finds in Eritrea:

  • Eritrea has some of the best archeological, paleontological, and pale onto-archelogical sites in the world.
  • This is very important heritage for Eritrea that has to be used for the development of the country.
  • Buia Lady: 1 million -year old hominid skull found in Buia, Eritrea.
  • 27 million year old elephant missing link called Eritreum melakeghebrekristosi named after the farmer, Melake Gebrekrestos, who found the jawbone.
  • The oldest settled agricultural community in Africa on the outskirts of Asmara.
  • There are over 40, 000 potential archeological sites in Eritrea.

All of these finds and activities remind me of an old Greek saying attributed to Pliny the Elder who wrote that “Ex Africa simper aliquid novi”- something new always comes out of Africa. I would like to say the same thing when it comes to Eritrea- “Ex Eritrea simper aliquid novi”.

 Next, Sketch four.