By Maina Kiarie
Hyrax Hill site and museum is located in Kenya’s Rift Valley, about 4 kilometres from Nakuru town close to the Nairobi-Nakuru highway. The Hyrax Hill museum was opened to the public in November 1965 while the site had been gazetted as a National Monument 22 years earlier in 1943. The site so named Hyrax Hill after hyraxes which are found in abundance, living in cracks within rocks found in the area.
The museum is housed in a former farmhouse at the base of the hill which was ceded to the monument for this purpose in 1965 by its owner the late Mr. A. Selfe. The site was discovered in 1926 by palaeontologist Louis Leakey while he was excavating a nearby site. He noted evidence of prehistoric habitation of Hyrax Hill. Eleven years later, Mary Leakey, noted several more habitation sites, including a stone walled fort and a group of pits. She began excavating the site in mid 1937 and her work produced evidence of an Iron Age stone walled enclosure and a Neolithic burial mound occupation.
The numerous sites around the hill have been discovered to belong to different time period. The results of these numerous excavations yielded three major areas of prehistoric settlement: the oldest dating 3,000 years and the youngest to possibly two to three hundred years. These fieldwork at Hyrax Hill provided a new understanding to an important part of Kenya’s prehistory.
The gallery at the museum displays ethnographic materials of the different Rift Valley peoples; Neolithic cultures in the area are represented by excavated materials from the Hyrax Hill site, and include various types of obsidian tools and a stone platter recovered from a burial site. Artefacts from the Hyrax Hill and other sites in the central Rift Valley are displayed.