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Published: September 9th 2011
ETHIOPIA...Prehistory to Awasa...The Ascent of Man. The Ascent of Man...us Homo Sapiens...is presented in many ways...ascent from the dust of the earth... creation... evolution... and drinking coffee.
We drank coffee first...well at the end of every repast ...after all we had advised our Guide we thought it was a coffee tour...and he did not disappoint.
Served in small cups, black, strong, clean, one sugar...pure Ethiopian. Not muddy like Turkish or Middle Eastern.
In the North, Ermias had led us to the finest coffee houses...the best being in a hut of banana leaves in the jungle on the banks of Lake Tana.
Now that we are heading South from Addis Ababa with Gobeze, we are taken to prehistory and archeological sites...but will there still be good coffee???
Now for the history lesson.
In about 1894 , Emperor Menelik II decreed that Ethiopia had a shortage of timber for fuel and building...and sourced Eucalypt seeds (for gum trees) from Australia...and gave the trees a name meaning in effect "from a far away land across the sea."
And these trees flourished...you can see them all over Ethiopia...a spindly, fast growing version.
You see them
in bundles on the backs of women...and donkeys...can't remember any on the backs of men...but heck someone has to drink the coffee..!
You also see spindly gums as the scaffolding on office blocks, on masses of 5 storey apartment buildings in Ethiopia's building boom...and climbing up the spires of mosques in the course of construction.
There is also the massive trade to Sudan for scaffolding...yes the humble Aussie gum is exported by Ethiopia ...is nothing sacred? ...must be time for a coffee..!
Heading South...into the Awash basin, flanked by the Ethiopian Rift to our right, ringed by several ancient volcanoes...a dominant force in the prehistory of the area...and one of the planet's greatest sources of Palaeontological and Stone Age artefacts.
Turn off into a track through deep grass...to a tall metal gate...opened...park down there...to a perfectly manicured site with delicate acacias and a number of round huts or tukels full of artefacts. "Welcome to Melka Kunture"
...Africa's only (I think) open air Early Palaeolithic site...only found in 1963...including bones of Homo Erectus
... now comprising 70 sites of which only about half have been excavated.
Tukel 1...maps of prehistoric sites...the palaentologists who think mankind evolved from
Africa...and not the land of Oz.
Tukel 2...the geology and volcanology affecting the area
Tukel 3...the fossil history of hominid and human...heaps of great skulls...and jaws of giant hippopotami
Tukel 4...heaps of stone and obsidian tools...the Stone Age Toolkit...choppers, handaxes, flakes, arrow heads...they had even analysed which had been later re-worked.
Did I say obsidian?
Somewhere in the south we pulled up next to a small village in an obsidian field.
Villagers ran to us (happens if you pull over anywhere in Ethiopia) and picked up big blocks of shiny black glassy obsidian...smashing off razor shards and presenting them to us.
The image of the village in a field glistening with shiny black shards and boulders is with me still...I have some shards...yet neither Mike or I took a photo. We had such a pleasant time with the villagers, we didn't think of it..!
Back to Melka Kunture...down a track through a grove of acacias...like a tunnel...to an Open Air Museum...a covered pit full of rocks and bits of ancient bone.
Then further up a track...to the Butchering Site...Stone Age site for the slaughter of large ancient beasts...lots of bits of
bone protruding from a small roped off area...I think they were castes but they looked authentic..!
Then further south in the Soddo Region, an area of 160 prehistoric sites, including the UNESCO Heritage Site of Tiya...a burial site with 36 stellae...each 1 to 5 metres high...32 carved with swords, banana trees, breasts and human forms...from the Ethiopian Megolithic period. Age unknown, but definitely pre Christian.
In the 1930s a group of Jamaicans started the Rastafarian movement, worshipping Ras Tafari also known as Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (Emperor from 1930 to 1974) as "Jesus Incarnate"
who would lead the African people to freedom.
In 1948 Haile Selassie donated a portion of land at Shashamane, 250 kms south of Addis Ababa to the Rastafaris of Jamaica, and many migrated to Ethiopia as a result. They have their own enclave still...and we were looking forward to visiting them.
We were told Haile Selassie had visited Jamaica, and during his visit it had rained for 40 days and nights and he was declared a god.
It's not as if Jamaica is desert...but it's a good story.
So moved was Haile Selassie by his reception, that he donated
the land for use of all West Indians of African descent.
Haile Selassie died in 1975 but is worshipped still!
In fact, the date of his 1966 visit to Jamaica where the whole airport was filled with gunga smoke and a Rasti leader had to calm the crowds so he could get off the plane, is the Rastifaris' second most holy day..!
And 20 kms further south is Awasa, a modern town on the banks of the surprisingly named Lake Awasa, Capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region ...our stop for the night...greeted by Maribou storks in the trees...Africas ugliest bird...fried fish on the balcony...and the best pineapple juice in Ethiopia.
Up early...down to the lake...surreal early morning greens and blues...men and maribou storks waiting for the fishing boats.
And as we leave Awasa...miles & miles of donkey carts heading to market...eating the dust of a truck in front...humanity choking...then emerging from the dust haze...gasping for breath.
The ascent of man...ascent from the dust of the earth...created out of dust...creation...evolution... Oh really...give me a break...that's enough...!!!!!
Must be time for a coffee..!
Relax & Enjoy,
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