Archaeological Sites in Kenya
Kenya is a magical land with rich history that dates back to several million years ago. This is evident through the numerous archaeological sites located in different parts of the country.
Most of these sites provide historians with the opportunity of studying the behavioral pattern of early man. Light is also shed on some of the ancient civilizations to inhabit this part of the earth.
The Leakey’s family is largely credited to the success of discovery and excavation of many of these significant sites. Mary and Louis plus their son Richard have unearthed plenty of fossils and artifacts.
Here are some of the top archeological sites in Kenya that act as attractions to historians and tourists alike.
Lake Turkana, Rift Valley
Lake Turkana is the largest alkaline lake and permanent lake located in a desert in the entire world. Located along the Rift Valley, this lake is the outlet for three other lakes namely: Kerio, Turkwel and Omo. Since it lacks an outlet, evaporation is the only method of water loss.
Lake Turkana is home to Nile crocodiles, carpet vipers, scorpions, hundreds of bird species and more than 50 species of fish. The banks are grazed by mammals such as zebras, gazelles, rhinoceroses and elephants. Predators such as cheetahs and lions are also present. Hominids inhabited the area three million years ago when it was more fertile.
Hyrax Hill, Nakuru
In 1926, Louis and Mary Leakey discovered the Hyrax Hill. Excavations started a decade later which led to the conclusion that Neolithic presence there dates back to 1500 B.C. There is a fortress and several tombs.
Of all the findings, six Indians coins must’ve been the most amazing. These coins date back to 500 years ago with no logical explanation of how they ended up there.
According to oral history, women were more politically powerful than men in that society. This is why they were buried with grave items such as mortars, pestles and dishes.
Koobi Fora, Koobi Fora Ridge
Koobi Fora is an important site with vital info on the hominid species that dates back to 4.2 million years ago.
Numerous terrestrial mammals and stone tools have also been discovered in the area. Two species of the Australopithecus and three species of the Homo co-existed in the area. While the Australopithecus species vanished, the Homo species continued to evolve thereby bringing forth new species of man.
The excavation process was quite challenging so Richard Leakey mobilized locals and trained them. The team was known as ‘The Hominid Gang’.
Pate Island, North Coast
Human activity on Pate Island dates back to the 7th century. The area was largely inhabited by the Arabs and served as an important port in the 14th century. The town prospered in fine art producing amazing goldsmiths, weavers, carpenters and musicians.
Chinese porcelain artifacts discovered in Pate proved that Chinese explorers traded with the locals there centuries ago. Some even intermarried which is why some of the people there have Asian features. History also reveals that the Chinese explorers from the Zheng He’s voyage were shipwrecked at Pate. Tombs from the Ming Dynasty have been discovered there.
Kariandusi, Nakuru – Elementaita Basin
It was discovered in 1928 but its history dates back to 1 million years ago. Geological evidence proves that much larger lakes existed in the basin.
The area is currently covered by the Elementaita and Lake Nakuru. Plenty of tools and weapons have been discovered in the riverbed. This led archeologists to believe that rising levels of the previous lakes might have been a contributing factor to migration.
The popular tool of choice in this Lower Paleolithic site was the hand axe. The tool was also discovered in other parts of the world like South Africa, France and England from the Acheulian period.
Olorgesailie, Eastern Rift Valley
Olorgesailie is not only a significant site for archeology but also for geology and paleontology too. Excavation on the site began in 1943, several decades after it was discovered.
The hand axes were in abundance which suggested the Acheulian period. Some of the animal fossils found include those of giraffes, gazelles, zebras and hippos.
The findings also included fossils of some animals’ species that are now extinct. The first human fossil unearthed from Olorgesailie in 2003 was the skull of a Homo erectus. Volcano ash helped in preserving the fossils.
Lamu town was established in 1370. It is the oldest town in Kenya to be continually inhabited. An invasion by the Portuguese in 1505 forced Lamu’s King to pay them royalties.
A century later, the Oman helped locals from the town in successfully resisting the Portuguese. This consequently led to the ‘Golden Age’ of Lamu which was under the Omani protectorate. In the 17th century, the town prospered in trade, crafts, politics and poetry.
Notable landmarks in the area include: Lamu Fort, Riyadha Mosque and the Donkey Sanctuary. Swahili architecture is on brilliant display there.
Gedi Ruins, Malindi
Excavation expedition in Gedi began in 1948 and lasted for a period of 11 years. Artifacts from Spain, China, India and Venice suggested a cosmopolitan population which was approximated at 2,500.
The architectural designs of houses in Gedi were quite complex. This is especially when taking into consideration that the town existed from 13th century to 17th century. The houses had flush toilets and modern drainage systems. There was also a palace and a mosque.
The Oromo from Somalia invaded the town in the 16th century driving out the original inhabitants.