For a long period of time, the location of the ancient exotic Puntland was mysterious and main topic of argument among scholars. But recent findings strongly indicated that the land was located in Eritrea. Shabait has conducted an interview with Dr. Yosief Libsekal, the Director General of National Museum of Eritrea, regarding the connection of Puntland with Eritrea. Excerpts follow:
Let’s began with what Puntland imply?
During the ancient Egyptian civilization, Egyptians were traveling towards south in search of exotic goods mainly animals, gold, fragrances and other materials for construction purposes. Archaeological findings were indicating that the land could either be in both sides of the Red Sea or in one specific place in Africa. Many countries including Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia have been claiming this whimsical land to be located in their lands. However, incense fragrance highly demanded by Egyptians as sweat of gods was largely distributed in Gash-Barka and Anseba regions. Historical facts also confirm that there existed various incense-bearing trees and incense factories until 1970s which were exported to France, British and Germany from Eritrea. These Egyptians were also searching for specific animals namely Giraffes, Tigers, monkeys and baboons found in tropical lands and bring them as alms to their temples. Those animals are found in Eritrea. Gold was another striking good Egyptians were voyaging for and artifacts unearthed in Gash-Barka and Central regions demonstrate similarity to that of gold relics found in Egypt. On top of this, Eritrean civilization was founded on gold mining at that time. Portrays depicted during Queen Hatshepsut bear out resemblance with the artifacts excavated in Eritrea. The aforementioned countries claiming Puntland don’t possess these exotic resources altogether.
The mummified human skeletons found in monasteries further verify that the art of mummification was practiced in Eritrea for a long period of time.
Recently, study proved that mummified skeleton of a baboon found in British museum was from Eritrea. Thus, this strong evidence confirms that Puntland was located in Eritrea.
What is the significance of proving Puntland as part of the ancient Eritrea civilization?
Proving that Eritrea was part and parcel of the ancient civilization adds value to our history and reveals Eritrean people’s identity. It also discloses the importance of this area in the ancient civilization. Evidence shows the area was not only connected with Egypt, but also with Middle East, Indian Ocean and China. Knowing ones origin and past history serves as a stepping stone to build its identity.
What efforts have so far been carried out to register Eritrean historical and ancient sites in the UNSCO world heritage?
Lately, experts from UNSCO visited Qohito and registered it on tentative world heritage list. We are also striving to put Asmara and Dahlak Kebir in the list. Of course, we need hard evidences to convince the world heritage committee. In Eritrea, we have more than 20 historical sites that fulfill the criteria, but more efforts are needed to gather the necessary documents.
How about the endeavors made to document Eritrean ancient history?
Until now, ancient Eritrea history is not collectively written. The existing documented Eritrean history by colonial powers do not fully represent the country’s identity rather it is either biased or distorted akin to many African counties. At present, however, we are engaged in gathered evidences of Eritrean historical identity and we would record our own specified history.
Explain to us on the current archaeological excavation?
Excavation is underway in Adulis in collaboration with Italian expedition and a small Church similar to ancient Churches found in Egypt, Syria and Italy was unearthed. The findings bolster the evidences so far gathered that Eritrea was one of the first countries accepted Christianity and Islam. Indigenous architectural and aboriginal ceramics have been also excavated. The evidences being gathered are vital to trace back the marginalized and distorted image of the Adulaite period.
Besides, we are working closely with mining drilling companies so as to preserve ancient relics from being destroyed in places such as Bisha Harina and Zara. Mining sites usually embraces ancient historical relics as most civilization emanate in those places.
Any message you want to forward?
We have evidences that Eritrea was part of old world historical period and for these reason, we need to preserve any archaeological findings and summit it to the concerned institutions.