Monday, January 25, 2021

National Museum in promoting protection of rock paintings

The excursion that began with a glance at mummified human skeletons in the national museum laboratory is one unexpected experience that will live a visitor astonished.

It is one of its first and may be the last mummified human remains to be kept in a museum in the country.

A curator at the museum also labelled it an “Accidental Mummification”.

Philip Segadika, the museum Chief Curator, who opens a DIY coffin lid, explains at length how the mummified skeletons came to the museum.

“The skeleton was discovered after people in Tuli Block reported about the human remains. We believe that it came to be on the surface due to erosion but the body was still intact,” he explained.

What baffles the curator is the burial related to ancient Egypt.

Mummification, according to his knowledge and historical background, has never existed in Southern Africa. He believes that the mummified skeleton from Tuli, which dates back as far back as 1802 AD, could have been encouraged by burial factors at the time.

“It could be possible that may be the person was buried during winter and the body could not decompose for a long time. This could have encouraged the body to stay intact,” he added.

Segadika termed the process as ‘Accidental Mummification’. As he opens the lid of the coffin, a human skeleton appeared still intact. He explains that the person was covered with in cow leather when he was buried. “Possibly, the leather of the cow that was slaughtered during the burial was used to cover him,” said Segadika.

He states that the hair on the skull is still visible. Segadika is not convinced that mummification was possibly conducted.

He gave an assurance that after carrying out some research, the skeleton will be taken to Tuli for burial.

“We don’t like keeping human bodies in the museum,” he joked.

As the visitors left the Museum, the curator asked for attention from those who were onboard, urging them to listen attentively as the bus came to halt after passing Molapo Crossing.

Near Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) stands two towers dubbed “Bonnington Open Air Museum ” that have been since refurbished and painted.

He said that where Bonnington silos towers stand used to be white settler traders farms. He said that Sechele I was the one who allocated the White traders some farms.

Segadika added that Sechele I was using the farms as a buffer zone that was intended to stop the settlers from encroaching in Kweneng territory.

At Bonnington, the national museum discovered a letter in a bottle during excavation in 2007.

The letter, according to Segadika, was written by one of the farm owners, Dan Lacordeau. He said that Lacordeau was a successful farmer who exported live cattle to South Africa and provided the then greater Gaborone populace with milk.

The curator further noted that Lacordeau shared his different sentiments in the letter, the contents of which revealed that the farmer had fears of colonization against the emerging states of Africa. He also shared his disappointment on tax regime that was affecting his business as a trader.

Lacordeau also noted his views about the political environment in Africa. Segadika stated that the letter and the site is a monument that will be used to celebrate the history of Gaborone and history of farming in colonial Botswana.

Most of the white settler traders feared for their lives. Those were times of Motsamai Mpho and Philip Matente who were pan-africanists.

The journey continued to Manyana Hills. Just a stone’s throw from Gaborone is Gabane village. At the far end of the village sits a hill called Moritshane Hill.

At the top of the hill the grave of an 8-year-old was discovered. Segadika explains that the eight-year-old could be from the royal family.

He emphasized that the burial that dates back as far as 1000 AD shows how important the eight-year-old was because he was buried along with rich cultural artefacts, such as glass beads from India.

He was quick to point out that the artefacts that were from India could have been costly at that time.

He said that there are deposits of vitrified cow dung at the top of the hills at a depth of one meter.

“This vitrified and compacted cow dung shows that there could have been a long time occupation on the top and at the foot of the hill. Those who resided here were part of the Pre-Tshwana states who traded with Indians.

The excursion drove through Kumakwane Village and passed through the dry terrain of Kolobeng River and here Segadika explained that Sechele I was baptized by Livingstone to become a Christian.
The journey was brought to a halt at Manyana Hills. The hills have some rock paintings though some are fading.

The exhibition at the National Museum is aimed at advancing the promotion and protection of rock art paintings.

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