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Importance of preserving historical sites

BROKEN Hill Man Skull.

MOSES WALUBITA, Lusaka
IN HIS book “Satisfying Zambian Hunger for Culture”, Mwizenge Tembo writes that scientists in evolutionary anthropology and primatologists have described a complex history of the sequence of how we humans became what we are today. Some of the descriptions are speculation and some are based on evidence gathered over at least a hundred years of digging, excavating, and examining fossil remains from the past to piece together how humans evolved.
“We Zambians and Africans may be both the origin and descendants of the first humans. The fossil remains of our ancestors have been found in dozens of locations from Ethiopia, East Africa in Oduvai George, and all the way to South Africa. Zambians will remember some Form II or Grade 9 history that the skull of Broken Hill man was found in Kabwe which archeologists dated to 25,000 years ago. The town of Kabwe used to be called Broken Hill during the British colonial period in Zambia,” explains Tembo, who is a professor of Sociology at Bridgewater College in Virginia in the United States of America.
The most important of these archeological findings is that after so many earlier species of Homo erectus and archaic Homo sapiens had died or gone into extinction because they could not adapt and survive, we Zambians and Africans survived to migrate to populate the rest of the world. Survival over thousands of years was not easy in the harsh savannah environments. Our Zambian ancestors’ fist had to be strong enough to walk, hunt and migrate long distances. Our bodies and immune systems had to be strong enough to fight and survive deadly diseases such as smallpox, malaria, yellow fever, and stomach worms, parasites, many unknown viruses and bacteria which thrive in the moist and hot African tropics.
Another Zambian writer, Monde Sifuniso, confining herself to Western Province (Barotseland), says Western Zambia is lucky because the whites who came to the province did not tamper with their way of life. The only thing they lost was their religion. For example, the Kuomboka was practised throughout the period the province was a protectorate.
Ms. Sifuniso, who could not talk generally about cultural heritage, states that one cultural trait that was ingrained in the Lozi culture was respect. It was well understood that children must respect adults. But adults were expected to respect children in return. This mutual respect instilled discipline in them and resulted in shared values and high morality. Over the years, especially with influences from Western cultures, our societies have been disintegrating.
“Is preserving and conserving heritage obligatory?” asks Maxwell Zulu of National Heritage Conservation Commission. Heritage is a concept that has become very common, and is used by people to style the legacy of the past generations. Heritage denotes the legacy of the people that they take over from previous generations.
“Invariably, heritage is a bridge linking our past and future. Heritage, then, is not only about buildings, monuments or artefacts but includes the intangible attributes such as tradition, language and knowledge. To me, these intangible attributes are not just things of the past but are the source as well as inspiration for the present. In this connection, heritage sites are thus a symbol of history and a representation of the past. Why exactly, then, do we need to spend time, energy and money to preserve our heritage?’’ Are they really important given the current world we live in? asks Mr Zulu.
History serves as a laboratory and the past serves as a demarcation to understand the regional laws and social structures. This understanding helps in our progress towards an ideal society
He advises that:
• Correct stock levels should be maintained to prevent erosion on ancient monuments.
• Feeding troughs, land drainage works, and access tracks for livestock and machinery should be sited away from the monument.
• Historic buildings such as castles and churches should not be used to shelter livestock. It is therefore necessary to keep livestock outside of historic buildings and not to use such buildings as shelter or feeding points
• Control the growth of gorse, scrub or woody plants on the monument. These should be cut at the base and the stump treated to prevent re-growth. Trees should not be uprooted as this may cause ground disturbance.
• Avoid removing field boundaries or historic farm buildings and gate posts.
Furthermore, cultivation adjacent to archaeological sites requires care and attention to lessen the chance of damage. Several steps can be taken to safeguard such archaeological sites which include, among other measures:
• Upstanding monuments should be left as islands of uncultivated ground within cultivated fields and should be protected by an unploughed margin of at least 7 metres around the edge of the monument. Control the growth of scrub or woody plants on the monument.
• Minimise plough depths where there are known levelled sites or cropmark sites in cultivated land
• Fields with levelled monuments or cropmark sites should be excluded from tillage and put into pasture if possible
• If trees are being planted, keep well away from ancient monuments. Conversely, overhangs should be looped off to prevent abrasion to the standing monument.
Against the aforesaid, how then can you recognise the presence of archaeological sites? First and foremost, many heritage sites can be identified by examining the Record of Monuments or a Heritage Register with archaeological inventory at any of the commission’s regional centres in Solwezi (North-Western Province); Livingstone (Southern Province); Kasama (Northern Province), and Lusaka (Lusaka Province).
“Suffice to say that many archaeological sites have yet to be discovered. Such discoveries are frequently made by farmers observing subtle differences in the landscape such as earthworks or scatters of finds (pottery, flint, human and animal bone) brought to the surface by ploughing, patches of stoney ground or blackened stones suggesting burning, or differences in crop growth caused by buried archaeological features,” adds Mr. Zulu, who is the commission’s education officer.

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