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Isimila pillars, historical site you need to visit

TALK of Iringa and what comes in one’s mind is the historical battle of Chief Mkwawa, the Hehe tribal leader fighting the Germans without many realising that the region has several historical and tourists’ attraction sites worth visit in the Southern Circuit besides Ruaha National Park and Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve).

About 21km southwest of Iringa off the Mbeya road to the left is a signpost of one of the major Stone Age site, called Isimila, located within a “korongo” (erosion gulley) on the Iringa plateau that has long been recognised as a site of international importance for understanding the behavioural complexity and plasticity of our hominid ancestors.

Or deciding to take a public transport also as an adventure, the site is straightforward to reach by one taking an Ifunda or Mafinga “daladala” (public commuter buses) from the Iringa town bus station and ask the driver to drop you at the Isimila junction (Tsh1500), from where it’s a 15-minute walk to the site.

Taxis charge from about Tsh 25,000 for the return trip. Or with a private vehicle drive to nearby Tosamaganga, a pretty hilltop mission station established by Italian missionaries in the early 20th century.

It’s reached via the unsignposted ‘Njia Panda ya Tosamaganga’ turn-off from the main road, 4km northeast of the Kalenga turn-off.

Follow the wide, unpaved road for about 5km, first past cornfields and then along a eucalyptuslined lane to the red-tile roofs and imposing church of the mission.

Here, in the late 1950s, according to a Conservationist at the Isimila Stone Age Site, Benedicto Jagadi, the area dotted with natural eroded sandstone pillars worth studies by researchers, archeologists and watch by tourists (both local and foreign) has a dramatic landscape ever identified.

Without mincing words, the Conservationist wonders why people would rush to visit such pillars in the United States of America (USA), yet Tanzania’s Southern Circuit has such beautiful landscapes and historical sites with easy reach in Africa without unnecessary bureaucracies and expenses.

“East Africa is often thought of as the ‘Cradle of Mankind’ given the discoveries at Olduvai Gorge by Louis Leakey and the ancient footprints at Laetoli and when we talk of charity begins at home, may I tell fellow Tanzanians as local tourists, scholars be they historians, archeologists and others that Isimila Stone Age Site has unique pillars one will never see in any part of the world apart from the US and uniquely enough, ours are big in size,” he added.

At the site, one would see tools in form of stones shaped for every activity in the human evolution, especially in the evolutionary process that led to the emergence of anatomically modern humans, beginning with the evolutionary history of primates—in particular genus Homo—and leading to the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of the hominid family, which includes the great apes.

The tools for instance at the sitehammerstones, axeheads, flints and scrapers – are estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 years old and there is a museum with small, well-captioned displays highlighting some of the discoveries.

The main pillar area is accessed via a walk down into a steep valley (about one hour round-trip), for which you’ll need a guide and according to Mr Jagadi, the visits are best in the morning or late afternoon, when the sun is not at its zenith.

Right at the site, you will not believe your eyes that Tanzania has beautiful and natural pillars at the once believed to be a lake some million years back.

According to the Conservationist, that is the place, where the early man lived given the found traces of tools in stone forms forming an axe to split wood, knife to cut meat and tailor a skin/hide for sleeping, spears for hunting and self defence against wild animals, and slings for hunting among.

“About 300-400 BC, the pillars started forming and since then have never been eroded or washed away. This is the site, you will find beautiful pillars after one in USA and best for archaeologist studies. “There is evidence which shows that the area around the Isimila site was a small lake.

This would have been a perfect hunting ground for hominids that lived there. Looking at the site today you might be able to imagine how the land was eroded from a lake to a large canyon. Harder rock types more resistant to erosion has remained, leaving thin rock towers as high as 30m.

“May I appeal to fellow Tanzanians that visiting the local sites foreigners come to visit as tourists should be loved, visited and preserved for future generations to benefit from. “We should have a culture of visiting them routinely to have firsthand information at low costs of less than 3,000/- and that in a way will promote our local tourists, historical and study sites,” he further said.

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Author: DAILYNEWS REPORTER

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