Although the images below are not physically in our "gallery of artifacts," they are part of the broad definition of what we call Museum Africa. That is, we feel that the wonders of Africa are so vast and so compelling that they simply can't be contained within the confines of a web page or two, or, for that matter, in a museum. Africa must be explored! We designed this web site with that idea in mind -- to get you, the visitor to our site, to go to Africa, while our museum is being built, and experience the sights, the sounds, the smells and, most of all, to interact with the people, listen to their stories of how they came to be and who they think they are, not what others think of them.
In 2005, the 1,700-year-old stone Axum obelisk returned to Ethiopia after seventy years in Italy. Axum, considered to be part of one of the great kingdoms of the ancient world, was looted by Italian troops in 1937. Dismantling and sending the 160-ton obelisk back to Ethiopia cost the Italian government $7.7 million. To keep the obelisk from freezing, heaters were installed on the planes and the monument was wrapped in steel bars to keep it from moving during the six-hour flight.
A black basalt stone discovered in Rosetta, Eqypt in 1799 by a French officer is still the subject of dispute between nations today. Known as the Rosetta Stone, the famous artifact has inscriptions in ancient Greek, demotic characters and hieroglyphics. The 2,200-year-old stone is believed to hold the secret to translating hieroglyphics and Eqypt's ancient past. When France surrendered to the British in 1801, the Rosetta Stone was transferred to the British Museum in London. Eqypt has continued to seek for the stone's return.
Legend has it that Moses descended from Mount Sinai after speaking with God, who gave him Ten Commandments for his followers, the Israelites, to use as a guide. These commandments were stored in a case known as the Arc of the Covenant. Ethiopians believe the Arc of the Covenant has been preserved to this very day and lies in the repository of St. Mary of Zion in Axum. Only one designated priest is allowed to enter this Chapel and this extraordinary claim will remain as another one of life’s unsolved mysteries.
The Queen of Sheba remains a mystery to most of the World. But not to Ethiopians, who claim that their Queen Makeda is the Queen of Sheba and that she is the one who visited King Solomon in Jerusalem sometime in the 10th Century B.C. and bore him a son, Menelik I -- the same Menelik who went on to become the first Emperor of Ethiopia. According to Kebra Negast (The Glory of Kings), which chronicles the kings and queens of Ethiopia, Queen Makeda returned to Ethiopia and lived out the rest of her life in a palace in Axsum. The excavated site (above) is believed to be all that remains of the Queen of Sheba's palace.
The Hamed Baba book repository, one of the world's most precious collections of ancient manuscripts, in Timbuktu, Mali, where Islamists claimed to have set fire to one of the world's most precious collections of ancient manuscripts in February 2013. The al-Qaida-linked extremists, who ransacked the institute before retreating in the face of a French-led military advance, wanted to deal a blow to the world, especially France, whose capital houses the headquarters of UNESCO, the organization which recognized and elevated Timbuktu's monuments to its list of World Heritage sites. So as they left, they torched the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, aiming to destroy a heritage of 30,000 manuscripts that date back to the 13th century. To leaarn more about Timbuktu, please click on the "African History: The Lost libraries of Timbuktu" link below.
The earliest culture in Nigeria to be identified by its distinctive artifacts is that of the Nok people. These skilled artisans and ironworkers were associated with Taruga and flourished between the fourth century B.C. and the second century A.D. in a large area above the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers on the Jos Plateau. The Nok achieved a level of material development not repeated in the region for nearly 1,000 years. Their terra-cotta sculpture, abstractly stylized and geometric in conception, is admired both for its artistic expression and for the high technical standards of its production.
Australopithecus sediba, extinct primate species that inhabited southern Africa nearly two million years ago and that shares several morphological characteristics in common with the hominin genus Homo. The first specimens were found and identified by American-born South African paleoanthropologist Lee Berger in 2008 at Malapa Cave system in northeastern South Africa. This discovery was viewed by scientists as a potential turning point in paleoanthropology, because the well-preserved remains of various structures (including major portions of the pelvis, foot, leg, hand, arm, and skull) revealed a form unique among known hominin species and appeared to be intermediate in terms of evolutionary development between the relatively primitive Australopithecus and the more-advanced Homo. The species takes its name from a word in the Sesotho language meaning “fountain” or “wellspring.”
In Mali, West Africa, lives a tribe of people called the Dogon, whose astronomical lore goes back thousands of years to 3200 BC. According to the Dogon, the star Sirius has a companion star which is invisible to the human eye. This companion star has a 50 year elliptical orbit around the visible Sirius and is extremely heavy. It also rotates on its axis. This legend was of little interest to anybody until two French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germain Dieterlen, recorded it from four Dogon priests in the 1930s. But how did a people who lacked any kind of astronomical devices know so much about an invisible star? The star, which scientists call Sirius B, wasn't even photographed until it was done by a large telescope in 1970. According to the oral traditions of the Dogon, a race of people from the Sirius system called the Nommos visited Earth thousands of years ago and told them about Sirius and other mysteries. The Nommos, who resembled mermen and mermaids, also appear in Egyptian, Babylonian, Accadian, and Sumerian myths.
The San, Bushmen, Basarwa, ?Kung or Khwe are indigenous people of southern Africa. The name 'San' comes from the Khoi word sonqua, meaning 'those without cattle'. The name ‘bushman’, or in Dutch, Boschjesmans, was first used as early as 1652 by Dutch settlers to describe the hunter-gatherers they met when they first arrived at the Cape. According to Dr Ben Smith, genetic evidence suggests they are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, peoples in the world, going back to perhaps 60,000 years. They have genetic traces that no one else in the world has, that put them at the root of the human tree - we are related to them, but they are not as closely related to us. They have unique markers that we don’t have.
The objects pictured above--pieces of jewellery, pottery and iron tools--dating back to between 2,000 and 7,000 BC were discovered in Senegal's capital, Dakar, following recent floods. The discovery was made at a construction site, according to officials. Senegal has an important precolonial history. The lands now comprising Senegal once were part of three empires: Ghana, Mali (which brought Islam to the area), and the Songhai. Senegalese culture strongly reflects influences from these Islamic rulers and conquerors. In 1444, Portuguese sailors became the first Europeans to visit the Senegalese coast. The French later founded the Senegal colony in 1637, making it the oldest and longest-lasting French colony in Africa. The slave trade, which flourished from the 1600s until 1848, devastated this area.
Amazigh people are the indigenous people of North Africa, some 20 million non-Arabic Tamazight and Tamashek speakers, from the Oasis of Siwa in Egypt , to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Canary Islands (Guanches), the Sahara Desert, Mali and Niger. This whole region, which is larger than one third of Africa, is called "Tamazgha" in Berber languages, and "Temust" in Tamashek, language spoken by Tuaregs of Mali and Niger. Because of "Near East" and "Middle East" or other Asian linguistic and cultural misnomers have been applied to the region and its people, the indigenous cultures have ben consistently minimized and marginalized to the detriment of their African origins. The Imazighen, which roughly translates to "free human beings," goes back to ancient pre-dynastic Egyptian rule.
In the heart of the Sahara lies the Tenere Desert. 'Tenere', literally translated as ‘where there is nothing’, is a barren desert landscape stretching for thousands of miles, but this literal translation belies its ancient significance: One of the finest examples of ancient rock art in the world - two life-size giraffe carved in stone -- can be found here -- here, where the desert meets the slopes of the Air Mountains. They were first recorded as recently as 1987 by Christian Dupuy. The two giraffe, one large male in front of a smaller female, were engraved side by side on the sandstone’s weathered surface. The larger of the two is over 18 feet tall, combining several techniques including scraping, smoothing and deep engraving of the outlines.