It’s 100 years of history for ‘Early Man’ museum

Hyrax Hill Prehistoric Site and Museum Curator Lilian Amwanda shows some artifacts at the Nakuru-based facility. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Hyrax Hills National Museum, one of Kenya’s critical archaeological sites and a national monument is marking 100 years of existence this month.

The famous archaeological site which has since placed Kenya as home of Early Man opened its doors in 1920, to host rich history and has since inspired history and geography lessons in schools. The museum was declared a national monument in 1945, but opened its doors to the public in 1965.

“This month marks 100 years of existence of this archaeological site that is just another classroom for thousands of learners across the country who visit,” Lilian Amwada, the museum’s curator said.

And while the museum has been a source of knowledge on early humans, the number of visitors touring the site has been low, a move which has also seen a raft of initiatives in place to boost the numbers.

Historical footprints

“We have carried out renovations and also initiated talent programmes for children in a bid to make the young learners visit the museum more for key lessons,” Ms Amwada said.

Hyrax, is part of the part of the critical, geologically rich areas in Rift Valley that provides tales of  historical footprints left behind by Early Man. It also boasts of a rich history of volcanic activities and information on the formation of the Rift Valley. 

The site, is also part of patches of archaeological sites that makes Kenya and especially the Rift Valley a hotbed of archaeological discoveries alongside Kariandusi Archeological site in Gilgil.

Particularly, Hyrax hills museum is named after hyraxes that lived in the rocks within and is famous for keeping the history of Sirikwa people who are believed to have been assimilated with the Maasai community.

“Apart from learners from primary and secondary school, we also have students in higher learning institution studying archaeology and history coming over,” she added.

The museum, has since been an archaeological research area and reference point for pre-historical investigations. It is also believed to be the first Acheulian site to be discovered in the region.

Records from the museum however reveal low visitation despite the critical role in education sector with the bulk of visitors being learners.

In 2016, Hyrax Hills National Museum recorded 21,781 visitors of whom 17,667 were learners from primary, secondary and institutions of higher learning. The same year, the museum generated Sh1.8 million and the following year, the revenues dropped slightly to Sh1.6 million with over 23,000 visitors making to the museum. In 2018, the museum generated Sh1.6 million while in 2019, total revenues amounted Sh1.7 million.

Primary and secondary school learners mostly visit the museum with records showing that 12,169 learners from primary and secondary school visited the museum. 5,498 students from colleges and universities visited the museum the same year.

Locals visiting the museum are mostly couples visiting for nature trails. 

With charges as low as Sh100 for an adult local citizen and Sh50 for a child charged in these sites, locals still miss out with visitors barely making to 30,000 in a year.  

The Hyrax hills was proclaimed a national monument in 1945 and opened to public in 1965 but despite the significance it has, it has lost two and a half acres of its over 50 acres of land to squatters. 

According to the National Lands Commission Nakuru County coordinator Frank Kimbelekenya, part of the land has been grabbed.