Connect with us

Culture & Tourism

Kenya’s fossil treasury contains unearthed mysteries

Museum staff knew the bones were something special – they just didn’t know what exactly.

Published

on

Newly-discovered giant 'simbakubwa kutokaafrika

The only hint that something extraordinary lay inside the plain wooden drawer in an unassuming office behind Nairobi National Museum was a handwritten note stuck to the front: “Pull Carefully”.

Inside, a monstrous jawbone with colossal fangs grinned from a bed of tattered foam – the only known remains of a prehistoric mega-carnivore, larger than a polar bear, that researchers only this year declared a new species.

“This is one-of-a-kind,” said Kenyan palaeontologist Job Kibii, holding up the 23-million-year-old bones of the newly-discovered giant, Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, whose unveiling made headlines around the world.

But the remarkable fossils were not unearthed this year, or even this decade. They weren’t even found this century. For nearly 40 years, the specimens – proof of the existence of Africa’s largest-ever predator, a 1,500 kilograms meat-eater that dwarfed later hunters like lions – lived in a nondescript drawer in downtown Nairobi.

Museum staff knew the bones were something special – they just didn’t know what exactly. A source of intrigue dusted off on occasion for guests, Simbakubwa lay in wait, largely forgotten. How did these fossils, first excavated on a dig in western Kenya in the early 1980s, go unrecognised for so long?

Kibii – who presides over the National Museums of Kenya’s palaeontology department, a collection unrivalled in East Africa and one of the world’s great fossil treasuries – has a pretty good idea. “We have tonnes and tonnes of specimens… that haven’t been analysed, Definitely there are things waiting to be discovered,” he said.

Out of space

The main wing has changed little since legendary paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey first started stockpiling his finds there in the early 1960s. A card-based filing system is still used to find a specific fossil among the trove, the entries written by hand. 

Reconstruction image shows a Simbakubwa kutokaafrika
This handout reconstruction image released on April 18, 2019, by Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, shows a Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, a gigantic mammalian carnivore that lived 22 million years ago in Africa and was larger than a polar bear. (Photo by Mauricio ANTON / Ohio University / AFP)

But the collection has grown exponentially, faster than Kibii and his team can keep up. “We’ve run out of space,” said Kibii, pausing between dusty archival shelves crammed floor to ceiling with finds, dating back more than half a century. “In this section alone, we have more than a million specimens.” 

Gigantic skulls of ancient crocodiles compete for space with a bygone species of horned giraffe. Nearby, the behemoth tusks of an early African elephant take up valuable real estate. Even the windowsills are littered with the petrified remains of all manner of weird and wonderful creatures. 

Between 7,000 and 10,000 new fossils arrive at the lab every year, Kibii says, overwhelming his 15 staff who must painstakingly clean and log each specimen. By law, fossils uncovered in Kenya must go to the museum for “accessioning” – the process of labelling, recording and storing for future generations. The backlog is enormous.

Chipping away

In a dark room, a lone staff in a protective mask blast away rock from fossil using an air-powered brush, as Kenyan pop tunes crackle through an old radio. Outside the door, metal chests sent from dig sites filled to the brim await his magic touch – literally years of work stretching before him.

If a specific expert is not on hand to identify a specimen, things can get wrongly categorised or waylaid. In some cases, they’re sent to the dreaded “waiting area”, where faded cardboard boxes, sagging with unknown and abandoned fossils, gather dust.

Pay Attention: Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

“We have fossils from the 1980s that have not been accessioned,” said collections manager Francis Muchemi, chipping away at a giant elephant molar.

Cradle of humanity

Simbakubwa met a similar fate. Thought to be a type of hyena, it was filed away in a backroom and unstudied for decades, until stumbled upon by American researchers. Specific finds unearthed at one of Kenya’s many digs by researchers writing academic papers are given priority and fast-tracked for assessment by the museum.

Even today though, the museum lacks specialists and resources. Kibii is one of just seven palaeontologists in Kenya. He trained in South Africa because there was no course available at home.

“It’s important because Kenya is the cradle of human evolution,” said Muchemi, who learned his skills on the job. “We have very few Kenyans doing this job. Ninety-nine per cent of the people who work here are foreign.”

Kibii said palaeontology was considered a lower priority than conserving Africa’s endangered wildlife. “This one has been in the ground for millions of years. What are you saving it from?” he said, of the prevailing attitude to the science.

Pay Attention: Biblio-art: How Polish artist adorns Egyptian monastery with Christian designs

He hopes to acquire collapsible shelves to create space in the collection. Even better, a micro-CT scanner – a powerful tool driving breakthroughs in the world of palaeontology – would allow a fresh look at the museum’s most-forgotten corners.

“I always wonder what lies in there on some of these shelves,” Kibii said. “Simbakubwa is telling a new story. What if, among these thousands, we have 10, 20, new stories that are lying, waiting to be told? That’s always the mystery.”

WATCH: Kenya’s fossil treasury contains unearthed mysteries

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Culture & Tourism

Teni, Falz, Burna Boy win big at 2019 Headies award. See full list of winners

Teni emerged the biggest winner with 5 awards, while Falz and Burna Boy tailed right behind her with 3 and 2 respectively

Published

on

Teni, Falz, Burna Boy win big at 2019 Headies award. See full list of winners | News Central

The 2019 Headies award, one of Nigeria’s biggest music award shows, kicked off with a red carpet at about 7 pm W.A.T with the main event starting at exactly 9 pm W.A.T at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos, Nigeria on Saturday, October 19, 2019.

The event featured exhilarating musical performances from some of Nigeria’s older and new age musicians who kept the audience up on their feet almost throughout the show.

Nigerian actress and TV host, Nancy Isime and rap star, Reminisce hosted the award show where over 20 awards were won by individuals that excelled in their respective categories in the year under review.

Pop sensation, Teni emerged the biggest winner at the event with 5 awards, while Falz and Burna Boy tailed right behind her with 3 and 2 respectively.

Here are the winners of the 13th edition of the Headies.

1.  BEST RECORDING OF THE YEAR (Non-voting category)

  • Adekunle Gold – Ire
  • Patoranking – Heal D World
  • Brymo – Olanrewaju
  • Teni – Uyo Meyo (Winner)
  • Burna Boy – Ye

2.      BEST POP SINGLE

  • ‘Ye’ – Burna Boy
  • ‘Wetin We Gain’ – Victor AD
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy ft Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Case’ – Teni (Winner)
  • ‘Jealous’ – Fireboy DML
  • ‘Baby’ – Joeboy

3.      PRODUCER OF THE YEAR

  • Phantom – ‘Ye’ b Burna Boy
  • Ozedikus – ‘Dumebi’ by Rema
  • Spellz – ‘Askamaya’ by Teni
  • Killertunes – ‘Fake Love’ by Starboy featuring Duncan Mighty and Wizkid ( Winner)
  • Kel-P Vibes – ‘Killing Dem’ by Burna Boy featuring Zlatan

4.      BEST RAP ALBUM (Non-voting)

  • ‘Moral Instruction’ – Falz (Winner)
  • ‘Crown’ – AQ and Loose Kaynon
  • ‘A Study On Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl’ – M.I Abaga
  • ‘Clone Wars, Vol. IV (These Buhari Times)’ – Show Dem Camp

5.      BEST R&B/ POP ALBUM

  • Rare – Odunsi (The Engine)
  • Outside – Burna Boy
  • No Bad Songz – Kizz Daniel
  • Mayor of Lagos – Mayorkun (Winner)
  • About 30 – Adekunle Gold

6.      BEST MUSIC VIDEO

  • ‘Dangote’ (Burna Boy) – Clarence Peters(Winner)
  • ‘Available’ (Patoranking) – Clarence Peters
  • ‘Ire’ (Adekunle Gold) – Aje Films
  • ‘Talk’ (Falz) – Prodigeezy
  • ‘Jaiye’ (Ladipoe) – 88 Factor

7.      BEST R&B SINGLE

  • ‘Tipsy’ – Odunsi ft. RAYE
  • ‘Serenade’ – Funbi
  • ‘Uyo Meyo’ – Teni
  •  ‘Wishes and Butterflies’ – Wurld
  • ‘Gimme Love’ – Seyi Shay featuring Runtown (Winner)

8.      BEST COLLABO

  • ‘Like’ – Reekado Banks featuring Tiwa Savage, Fiokee
  • ‘One Ticket’ – Kiss Daniel featuring Davido
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy featuring Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Killin’ Dem’ – Burna Boy featuring Zlatan (Winner)
  • ‘Amaka’ – 2baba featuring Peruzzi

9.      BEST RAP SINGLE

  • ‘Talk’ – Falz ( Winner)
  • ‘We Don’t Do That Over Here’ – Hotyce
  • ‘40ft Container’ – Ill Bliss featuring Olamide
  • ‘Sacrifice’ – Payper Corleone featuring Alpha Ojini
  •  ‘Gang Gang’ – AQ and Loose Kaynon

10.  BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE(MALE) (Non-voting category)

  • Tay Iwar – ‘Utero’
  • Johnny Drille – ‘Finding Efe’
  • Nonso Bassey – ‘411’
  • Funbi – ‘Serenade’
  • Wurld – ‘Wishes & Butterfly’ ( Winner)

11.  BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE (FEMALE) (Non-voting category)

  • Good Girl LA – ‘Bless me’
  • Waje – ‘Udue’
  • Teni – ‘Uyo Meyo’ (Winner)
  • Tems – ‘Mr Rebel’
  • Falana – ‘Repeat’

12.  NEXT RATED

This category is a voting category and the award is given to the most performing and promising act in the year under review.

  • Rema (Winner)
  • Joeboy
  • Fireboy DML
  • Victor AD
  • Lyta
  • Zlatan

13.  HIP HOP WORLD REVELATION

  • Odunsi
  • Mayorkun (Winner)
  • Wurld
  • Humblesmith

15.  BEST STREET-HOP ARTISTE

  • Erigga – ‘Motivation’ 
  • Chinko Ekun – ‘Able God’ (Winner)
  • Zlatan – ‘Leg Work’
  • Barry Jhay – ‘Aiye’
  • Lyta – ‘Time’

16.  BEST ‘ALTERNATIVE’ SONG

  • ‘Cash’ – Lady Donli
  • ‘Mr Rebel’ – Tems
  • ‘Finding Efe’ – Johnny Drille ( Winner)
  • ‘Heya’ – Brymo
  • ‘Ire’ – Adekunle Gold

17.  ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • About 30 – Adekunle Gold
  • Outside – Burna Boy
  • Moral Instruction – Falz (Winner)
  • No Bad Songz – Kizz Daniel

18.  ARTISTE OF THE YEAR

  • Burna Boy (Winner)
  • Wizkid
  • Davido
  • Tiwa Savage
  • Falz

19.  SONG OF THE YEAR

  • ‘Ye’ – Burna Boy (Winner)
  • ‘Dumebi’ – Rema
  • ‘Wetin We Gain’ – Victor AD
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy ft Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Case’ – Teni
  • ‘Leg work’ – Zlatan
  • ‘Baby’ – Joeboy
  • ‘Jealous’ – Fireboy DML

20.  HEADIES’ VIEWER’S CHOICE

  • Mr Eazi
  • Burna Boy
  • Teni (Winner)
  • Fireboy DML
  • Rema
  • Joe Boy
  • Wizkid
  • Davido

21.  BEST PERFORMER (Non-voting category)

  • Falz
  • Tiwa Savage
  • Brymo
  • Yemi Alade (Winner)
  • Adekunle Gold

22.  ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  • Crayon
  • Buju
  • Barry Jhay ( Winner)
  • Oxlade

23. SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD

Paul Okoye

23.  AFRICAN ARTISTE RECOGNITION

  • Master KG – Skeleton Moves (SOUTH AFRICA)
  • Afro B – Drogba (Joanna) (IVORY COAST)
  • Sauti Sol – Melanin (KENYA)
  • King Promise – CCTV (GHANA) (WINNER)
  • DJ Maphoriza – iWalk Ye Phara (SOUTH AFRICA)

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading

Culture & Tourism

Egypt unveils 30 ancient wooden coffins in Valley of the Kings in Luxor

The 30 ornately decorated coffins of men, women and children were found only a metre (three feet) underground, stacked in two rows

Published

on

Egypt revealed Saturday a rare trove of 30 ancient wooden coffins that have been well-preserved over millennia in the archaeologically rich Valley of the Kings in Luxor.

The antiquities ministry officially unveiled the discovery made at Asasif, a necropolis on the west bank of the Nile River, at a press conference against the backdrop of the Hatshepsut Temple. 

“This is the first discovery in Asasif by dedicated Egyptian hands, comprised of archaeologists, conservationists and workers,” the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa al-Waziri, told reporters. 

The 30 ornately decorated coffins of men, women and children were found only a metre (three feet) underground, stacked in two rows. They are believed to belong to family members of high priests.

Waziri explained that excavations of the site in the 19th century had revealed royal tombs, but this latest discovery had yielded a collection of priests’ burials.

The sarcophagi dates back to the 22nd Dynasty, founded around 3,000 years ago in the 10th century BC. 

Despite their age, black, green, red and yellow paintings of snakes, birds, lotus flowers and hieroglyphics that cover the coffins are still clearly visible.

A sealed coffin belonging to a young ancient Egyptian child was incomplete and unpainted.

“We only did remedial first-aid on these well-preserved coffins. They are considered to be in great condition because there were hardly any settlements” around the site, local antiquities ministry restorer Saleh Abdel-Gelil told AFP.

Tombs and tourism

Discoveries of ancient Egyptian relics had slowed after the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country in political turmoil, according to Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany.

Several high-level officials, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, have in recent weeks affirmed Egypt’s stability following rare, small-scale protests in September that drew a heavy-handed response from security forces.

“Now in Egypt we have more security so we have more foreign nationals. We have more than 250 (archaeological) missions. More work equals more discoveries”, he told AFP on the sidelines of the press conference.

At Marsam, a boutique hotel in Luxor, the flurry of archaeological discoveries in recent years has translated into good business and foot traffic.

“You can say two years ago we noticed a difference. There was less than half the people that we have today,” said Birte Fuchs, a German who manages the Marsam with her husband and local partners. “Tourism is coming back”.

This year, over 11 million visitors travelled to Egypt, following a sharp dip in numbers after the revolution. 

Egypt has sought to promote its archaeological heritage and finds in a bid to revive its vital tourism sector, which has suffered due to political insecurity and terror attacks.

However, critics point to archaeological sites and museums suffering from negligence and poor management.

But Enany, the minister, remains upbeat.

“Some people, we don’t have to mention names, don’t want us to have these discoveries… that impress the world,” said Enany before throngs of tourists, referring to detractors.

“These discoveries are priceless for Egypt’s reputation,” he added.

Sporting his trademark cowboy hat, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who has consistently promoted his discoveries to a global audience, was also at Saturday’s unveiling.

He took selfies with tourists who flocked to the coffins.

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading

Culture & Tourism

Nigerian town celebrates self-proclaimed title of ‘twins capital of the world’

The town boasts of having the highest concentration of multiple births of any place on the globe.

Published

on

The sign greeting visitors at the entrance of Igbo-Ora in southwest Nigeria welcomes people to “TWINS CAPITAL OF THE WORLD”.

The town boasts of having the highest concentration of multiple births of any place on the globe. 

To celebrate its self-proclaimed title the town hosts an annual festival, now in its second year, that draws hundreds of sets of twins from around the country.

Donning different traditional clothes and costumes, the twins – male and female, old, young and even newborns – sang and danced at the latest edition this weekend to the appreciation of an admiring audience.

“We feel elated that we are being honoured today,” Kehinde Durowoju, a 40-year-old twin, told AFP as he hugged his identical brother Taiwo. 

“With this event, the whole world will better appreciate the importance of Ibeji (twins) as special children and gifts from God.”

Around them, twins moved in procession to show off their colourful outfits as magic displays and masquerades also entertained the crowds.

‘Twins tourism’

Population experts say the Yoruba-speaking southwest has one of the highest twinning rates in Nigeria.

Statistics are difficult to come by, but a study by British gynaecologist Patrick Nylander, between 1972 and 1982, recorded an average of 45 to 50 sets of twins per 1,000 live births in the region.

That compares to a twin birth rate of 33 per every 1,000 births in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Igbo-Ora is the epicentre of the phenomenon in the country. 

Residents in the town say that almost every family has some twins.  

Traditional leader Jimoh Olajide Titiloye knows all about this special quirk. 

“I am a twin, my wife is a twin and I have twins as children,” he told AFP. 

“There is hardly any household in this town which does not have at least a set of twins.”

He said the festival on Saturday was aimed at promoting Igbo-Ora as “the foremost twins’ tourism destination in the world” and that efforts were underway to get the town listed in the Guinness Book of Records. 

Royal father and King of Oyo kingdom Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, lll, looks on during the parade of twin mothers at the Igbo-Ora World Twins festival, designed to celebrate the uniqueness in multiple births at Igbo-Ora Town in Oyo State, Nigeria, on October 12, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Prominent Yoruba ruler, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, said the festival “is a celebration of culture and recognition of Ibeji as special children in Yorubaland”.  

He said the birth of twins usually “heralds peace, progress, prosperity and good luck to their parents,” adding that parents should always take good care of them.

But while twins are seen as a blessing by many today, that has not always the case in parts of southern Nigeria. 

In pre-colonial times twins were often regarded as evil and were either banished to the “evil forest” or killed.

Scottish missionary Mary Slessor is widely credited with helping to curb the practice in the late 19th century.

Food or genes?

Scientists have not said definitively why Igbo-Ora has such a high number of twins. 

Local residents have a theory that it is down to the diet of women in the town. 

“Our people eat okra leaf or Ilasa soup with yam and amala.” community leader Samuel Adewuyi Adeleye told AFP.

Yams are believed to contain gonadotropins, a chemical substance that helps women to produce multiple eggs.

“The water we drink also contributes to the phenomenon,” Adeleye added.

Fertility experts are sceptical – and point to another explanation. 

They say there is no proven link between diet and the high birth rate, with the same food being consumed across the region. 

“It’s a genetic thing,” said Emmanuel Akinyemi, the medical director of Lagos-based Estate Clinic. 

“I think the gene for multiple births is in the region and this has been passed on from generation to generation.” 

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading

Trending