Why Tugen may have been the cradle of mankind

Mzee Rutto Yatich displaying one of the pots discovered inside a cave within his Kipsaraman home. PHOTO/Jeremiah Chamakany, The Scholar Media Africa.

Kipsaraman is a small hamlet located on top of an escarpment overlooking the great Kerio Valley in Baringo County.

To the Eastern side lies the famous Lake Baringo.

Secrets about human history abound here.

Not far from this village, the oldest humankind’s remains were discovered in the year 2001.

The skulls were lying in the sediments of time in the nearby village of Rondinin.

Without any dispute, Kipsaraman is indeed the Olduvai Gorge of Baringo County.

French Paleontologist Brigitte Senut and Geologist Martin Pickford also a French National made the stunning discovery of the ancestor believed to have roamed the Hills of Tugen some six million years ago, the Orrorin Tugenensis.

But the existence of other discoveries in the same region points to a possibility that indeed, the hills of Tugen were once the cradle of mankind.

An old man, Yatich Arap Ruttoh who lives in Kipsaraman village is renowned for his unique ability to distill native beer called Muratina.

He uses honey combs and a combination of some herbs from the forests to make it.

Unknown to many people around him, this old man prepares his traditional beer using a pot left behind by cave dwellers, believed to have fled the place many centuries ago to avoid wars that pitted a local tribe against the other.

Perhaps it was around that time when hunting and gathering was giving way to the agrarian revolution.

Some traces of millet were found inside the pots whose abode was overgrown with molds and small twigs.

“That was very long long time ago,” said Mzee Yatich.

But how exactly did this pot end up in his hands?

“It is a long story,” the old man told The Scholar MediaAfrica.

He cannot exactly recall the year when a group of young boys went into the bush to hunt.

But he can remember that some colonial settlers were still around when the pots were found.

One of those boys was his youngest brother the late Haron Ruttoh, who ended up serving as a Councilor representing Perkera Ward in the defunct County Council of Koibatek.

He was such an adventurous boy who in the process of his most daring exploits, lost one of his arms in an accident he incurred after falling from a cliff.

For three good days, his family went into the bush in search of him and finally, found him lying unconscious on top of some shrub.

He passed away in the year 2014, and was buried at his Eldama Ravine home.

“Now this boy,” said Mzee Yatich, “was fond of chasing after the rock hyraxes which are still common in the region.”

“During one of his missions, something which looked unusual caught his attention.”

Yatich says that a swarm of bats numbering hundreds or more flew out of a cave.

With his curiosity stirred, the boy was determined to have a peek into the cave.

“Not far from the mouth of the cave stood two pots of similar size, color, and features,” Yatich says.

Micah Cherutoi, a teacher at Rebeko Primary school in Baringo North acted as their guide during our fact finding trip.

The cave can still stir awe and superstitious thoughts among locals.

There are reports that serpents live inside the cave and thus they had to maintain a safe distance.

One would need a great source of light to venture into the cave.

“We could not however confirm allegations that the late Ruttoh who collected the relics reported to have heard a sound like a flow of a very big river, or a waterfall crashing into some rocks in the darkest corner of the cave.

One of the pots broke down because the boy lost his grip while trying to descend from the cliffs.

Only one pot managed to reach home safely,” Yatich said.

He added that the finding forced him to consult elders of his time about the strange items.

According to his own recollection, some elders who lived within Kipsaraman and Rondinin during those days told him that the pots were likely a property of the Keiyo Community.

A clan of the community who later migrated up the hills of Iten are believed to have then roamed the escarpment, but were very keen to avoid fierce cattle raiders who roamed the plains that stretched to as far as the modern day Loruk.

Their ruthlessness is well documented among sages who still remember a now extinct ethnic group called the Toicho suffering immensely in their hands.

Their fleeing remnants were pushed towards the shores of Lake Baringo.

But Mzee Yatich is not keen in supporting of this theory.

According to him, the pots are likely a property of a family which was forced to flee the region to look for food elsewhere.

Traces of millet inside the pot according to Mzee Yatich is a clear pointer that the owner had preserved some grains in readiness for the next planting season as tradition demands to date.

“The owner of the pot possibly died, and that could be the reason why he never returned,” were Mzee Yatich’s closing words.

Meanwhile, the bottom of the pot is now broken and will not again be used to brew native beer.

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