TSEGAI Medin, (University of Rovira I Virgili, Tarragona, Spain)
Eritrea - (new country)?
Part IThe most monotonous subject we often listen about Eritrea is; Eritrea is a new country. What makes the country new? Physically, it is relatively small in African standard but bigger than Djibouti, Monaco, Vatican-city, Malta, Seychelles…etc and have the same size as of Pennsylvania and/or England. Historically it is the birth of ancient and giant civilizations (the first "Christianized and Islamized "country) in the region and socio-culturally highly diversified. The subject was unconsciously used in Media, newspapers and websites and further goes down to the knowledge of the ordinary people. For example, once you introduce to someone for the first time; among the frequent posed questions are; where are you really from? Majority of people (especially in the western world and America) they have no idea about -Eritrea?-but some of them after instant pause; they say, the new and small country in the Horn of Africa! A new and small country? Most of the time, it is curious to listen such an answer and I often tried to highlight some historical facts and socio-cultural information of the country as part of the conversation. However, normally, it is not practical to explain such long history in short conversations. Otherwise, I would be proud to narrate the history of the physically small but historically robust country any time. It is not quite easy to define the meaning of Eritrea, but majority agree that Eritrea means; a compilation of the following expressions; diversity, value, beauty, approachability, solidarity, resistance, martyrdom, liberty, self-reliance,etc. These are some of the expressions or terminologies you often find within the notes of a writer/s and/or any other ordinary witness. Yes proudly they are, but what about its antiquity? Let`s follow the following highly condensed Eritrea`s historic review of information from around 25 Million years to Present.
The Eritrean land catches the attention of antique life of mammals and Humans Millions of years back. Recently about 25 to 22 Million years old fossil of a primitive proboscideana, very old relative modern elephants, is discovered from Adi-Ugri (Mendefera) and Dogali areas. These areas show a time span that includes a portion of African mammal evolutionary history, which is substantially unknown to science. These elephant species were thrived in the Miocene from the Arabian land mass to Africa; during this time Africa and Arabia were still joined together as a single continent that was isolated from the other landmasses by surrounding oceans and seas.
Elephant fossil found near Adi-Ugri (Mendefera)
Roughly, after twenty million years, in the late Early Pleistocene, one of the evolved Homo species was already at the grass-land and Savanna-dominated environments of East Africa. The northern most end part of the rift valley (the Dandiero basin) was part of these huge savanna dominated paleoenvironment. The Buia Homo like any other synonymous African Homo species was living adjacent to the coastal flood plains of the Buia basin. Extensive research programs in the last two decades, witnessed the presence of this Homo species along a diversified species of large mammals and other animal species chronologically dated to the late Early Pleistocene. Among the large mammalian fauna a unique type of Bos is discovered in the basin. Because of its unique morphological traits, it retains Eritrean name, that is, Bos buiaensis. The Homo sp. documented at the Danakil depression was dated to ca. 1.0 million years ago and was inhabited at a wide paleoecological spectrum of the depression. The well known complete fossil skull from Buia (found in Aalad Area in 1995) is recently enriched by other more evidences from nearby localities (locally named as “Mulhuli-Amo”). These are fossils of cranial and post cranial evidences and importantly a third molar teeth-probably belong to three individuals of Homo. The discovery of a complete skull and a molar teeth of Homo (1.0 Ma old) is not widely common to the present knowledge of the fossil record in Africa or elsewhere in the world. The fossil specimen from Buia and Mulhuli-Amo filled the gap between Homo erectus (1.4 ma) and Homo heidelbergensis (0.65 ma) in the Homo family tree. This species was the most widely known and evolutionary successful species of Homo to populate the modern world. To the knowledge of current evolutionary research this species is our direct ancestor, that is, the only Human species remained in the planet. The invention of fire, highly complex technological stone tools, bigger brain size, bipedalism, are among the most known characteristics of this species. The Acheulian stone tools (choppers and bifaces-hand axe) are his typical technological devices, used to exploit high protein budget from a mammal bone and marrow that resulted to a rapid increase of brain size and change in intestine gut and anatomy.
Excavation at Buia, 2010.
Coming up, Part II.