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As the sun began to set on Wednesday evening, Peter swung our Heifer vehicle into a clearing marked from the highway from Njombe to Iringa by a tiny blue hand-written sign: Isimila Old Stone Age site. We had just finished our last interview of the trip and were making our way to Dar to catch a flight home should the European ash cloud allow it.
Guide Daniel Msakwa (above with prehistoric spear) hurried us along to beat the shadows falling over the spectacularly eroded landscape where a flowing river over millennia carved soaring pillars. As we walked, tall grasses waved in an evening breeze and night noises, including the hoot of a nearby owl, began to emerge.
The land around the now nearly-dry riverbed once was called home by Stone Age people up to 300,000 to 400,000 years ago. The Isimila Stone Age Site offers one of the richest exposures in Stone Age tools in all of Africa. The site was discovered in 1951, with archaeological digs revealing knives, spears, slingshots and stone hammers the inhabitants used to protect and feed themselves unearthed in 1957 and 1958. The tools still lie where they're found, protected from the weather by small huts. For more information, see Allafrica.com's writeup on the site here.

There was too much to see, including these rock hyrax perched atop pillars along our path. The puppy-faced, mole-bodied critters are apparently tremendous jumpers that can easily navigate the rocky landscape, though to me it looked like they might be stuck where they sat for the next several hundred thousand years.
Only moonlight was left by the time we made it back to the car. It was easy to imagine that life might not have been all that different for the owls and hyrax so long ago, when people hunted animals with stone tools and lived in nearby caves.

Author

Donna Stokes

Donna Stokes is the managing editor of World Ark magazine. She has worked for Heifer International since September 2008 when she leaped over to the nonprofit world from a two-decade career in newspaper journalism.

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