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Author Topic: Egypt footprint 'could be oldest'  (Read 84 times)
Description: Perhaps 2 million y.o.
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« on: August 22, 2007, 01:33:09 PM »

Siwa Oasis has many mud-brick buildings

Archaeologists in Egypt say they have discovered what might be the oldest human footprint ever found.

The outline was found imprinted in mud, which has since turned to stone, at Siwa oasis in the western desert.

"This could go back about two million years," antiquities council chief Zahi Hawass was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, stands near the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, June 17 2007. [Reuters]

However Khaled Saad, director of pre-history at the council, said it could be older still, and pre-date Ethiopia's 3m-year-old skeleton, Lucy.

Lucy, discovered in 1974 in Hadar, Ethiopia, is an extinct Australopithecus afarensis hominid estimated to be 3.2 million years old.

Creatures of her kind are assumed to have left the feet impressions recorded in volcanic ash at Laetoli in Tanzania. These prints have been dated to 3.6 million years ago.

The oldest footprints (and handprints) known to be associated with Homo (human) species are recorded in volcanic rocks at Roccamonfina in Italy. These are about 350,000 years old.

Commenting on the new discovery - which has yet to be reviewed by independent scientists - Mr Hawass said: "It could be the most important discovery in Egypt."

Until now the earliest evidence of human activity found in Egypt, most famous for the era of the pharaohs, dates from about 200,000 years ago.

Siwa Oasis is vast, extending beyond the horizon

Siwa Oasis

The Siwa Oasis or Siwah (Wahat Siwah in Arabic: واحة سيوة) is an oasis in Egypt, located between the Qattara Depression and the Egyptian Sand Sea in the Libyan Desert, nearly 50 km (31 miles) east of the Libyan border, and 560 km (348 miles) from Cairo.[1] Location: [show location on an interactive map] 29�11′N, 25�33′E.[2][3]

About 80 km (50 miles) in length and 20 km (12 mi) wide,[1] Siwa Oasis is one of Egypt's isolated settlements, with 23,000 people, mostly ethnic Berbers[1] who speak a distinct language known as Siwi. Agriculture is the main activity, mostly dates and olives, supplemented by basketry.[1]


Although the oasis is known to have been settled since at least the 10th millennium BC, the earliest evidence of connection with ancient Egypt is the 26th Dynasty, when a necropolis was established. The ancient Egyptian name of Siwa was Sekht-am (meaning "palm land").[1][4]

Greek settlers at Cyrene made contact with the oasis around the same time (7th century BC), and the oracle temple of Ammon (Zeus Ammon) was already famous during the time of Herodotus.[4] Prior to his campaign of conquest in Persia Alexander the Great reached the oasis, supposedly by following birds across the desert. The oracle is said to have confirmed him as both a divine personage and the legitimate Pharaoh of Egypt.

The Romans later used Siwa as a place of banishment. Evidence of Christianity at Siwa is dubious, but in 708 the Siwans resisted an Islamic army, and probably did not convert until the 12th century. A report of 1203 mentions only seven families totalling 40 men living at the oasis, but later the population grew to 600.

The first European to visit since Roman times was William George Browne, who came in 1792[1] to see the ancient temple of the oracle.

The oasis was officially added to Egypt by Muhammad Ali of Egypt in 1819, but his rule was tenuous and marked by several revolts.

Siwa was the site of some fighting during World War I and World War II. The British Army's Long Range Desert Group was based here, but also Rommel's Afrika Korps took possession three times. German soldiers went skinny dipping in the lake of the oracle, which was considered a sacrilege.

As seen from Siwa town, the ruins of Shali
The ruins of Shali dates back to the 13th century, and was in full use until 3 days of heavy rain destroyed it in 1926.

The ancient fortress of Siwa, built of natural rock salt, mud-brick[1] and palm logs and known as the Shali Ghali ("Shali" for city, and "Ghali", dear), although now mostly abandoned, remains a prominent feature, towering five storeys above the modern town.

Other local historic sites of interest include: the remains of the oracle temple; the Gebel al Mawta (the Mountain of the Dead) Roman-era necropolis[1] featuring dozens of rock-cut tombs; and "Cleopatra's Bath" a natural sulphur spring. The fragmentary remains of the oracle temple, with some inscriptions dating from the 4th century BC, lie within the ruins of Aghurmi. The revelations of the oracle fell into disrepute under the Roman occupation of Egypt.[1]

Another attraction is Fatnas Island, which became a palm-fringed peninsula located on the edge of a saltwater lake.[citation needed] The lake had been partially drained in recent years due to a plan to limit the effect of rising water levels in Siwa due to agricultural runoff from uncontrolled wells(a major problem affecting the entire oasis), and Fatnas Island is now surrounded mostly by mud flats. The main attraction is a swim in the clear and deep water of Fatnas Spring, under the watchful eye of the military police. Changing/restroom facilities have been built and Omran Mat'am (partial owner of the land around the spring) will serve you tea/coffee or soda as you relax and catch the sunset.

   1. a b c d e f g h i "Siwa" (article), Encyclop�dia Britannica, 2007, webpage: EB-Siwa.
   2. Kathryn A. Bard, Steven Blake Shubert (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge (UK). ISBN 0415185890.
   3. Dieter Arnold, Helen Strudwick, Nigel Strudwick (2003). The encyclopaedia of ancient Egyptian architecture. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 1860644651.
   4. a b "Ammon" (article), Encyclop�dia Britannica, 2007, webpage: EB-Amon.

    * (French)De l�habitation aux pieds d�argile, Les vicissitudes des mat�riaux (et des techniques) de construction � Siwa (�gypte)PDF, de Vincent Battesti, in Benfoughal T. et Boulay S. (dirs), Journal des Africanistes, Sahara : identit�s et mutations sociales en objets, Paris, Soci�t�s des Africanistes, 2006, Tome 76, fascicule 1, p. 165-185.
    * (French)� Pourquoi j�irais voir d�en haut ce que je connais d�j� d�en bas ? � Centralit�s et circulations : comprendre l�usage des espaces dans l�oasis de SiwaPDF, de Vincent Battesti, in Battesti V. et Puig N. (dirs) �gypte/Monde Arabe, Terrains d��gypte, anthropologies contemporaines, n� 3, 3e s�rie, 1er semestre 2006, Le Caire, CEDEJ, p. 139-179.

Tags: archaeology Egypt siwa oasis footprint history mankind 
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