Ivorian Researcher, Adjata Kamara, recognized for her work on Yam Preservation

Yams
Yams

Yam is a staple food in many countries of Africa, particularly in West Africa. So it comes with a bit of surprise to those not versed in agriculture, that there will is work to protect yam. Why would yam need protection? and from what? Ivorian researcher Adjata Kamara is one of this year’s 20 L’Oreal Foundation laureates from sub-Saharan Africa; she won for her project on the development of post-harvest biopesticides for the protection of yam crops. At the Biopesticides unit of the University of Bingerville where she is a doctoral student, her research has determined that “soil-depleting” chemical pesticides and the harvesting methods of farmers who “injure the yam”, favored the rapid appearance of fungi that rot the plant and eventually make it unfit for consumption. Thus the urgency of developing natural pesticides. Kamara will receive 10,000 Euros for her work. Excerpts below are from AfricaNews. Enjoy!

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L'igname (yam)
L’igname (yam)

Adjata Kamara is one of the 20 winners of the For women in science initiative of the L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO, which aims to give visibility to women researchers worldwide.

The 25-year-old Ivorian was chosen for her work on biopesticides to protect yam crops, a root that is highly prized in sub-Saharan Africa.

Her passion for research stems from her childhood when her father’s mango crops were ravaged by fungi.

“It allows me to show my research to other women, to other countries and it puts a little pressure on me because I tell myself that now, I have to be a role model for young girls in science,” said Adjata.

Adjata explains that her goal is to develop “biopesticides based on plant extracts, fungi and beneficial bacteria,” in order to treat without chemicals this anomaly that disrupts the production of a plant that is the basis of staple food in several regions of Africa.

“I work on the development of biopesticides based on plant extracts, bacteria and also fungi. But these bacteria and fungi are said to be beneficial and so I’m trying to find methods to control the fungi that attack post-harvest yams,” …

… “From an early age, my father had a mango plantation. And this plantation was attacked by mushrooms, but at that time we did not know it. And as the years passed, there was a drop in production. And from then on, I wanted to know why these mangoes were being attacked (by fungi), and why production was falling. And it’s since then that I devoted myself to it and that I loved science,” said Adjata.

The Importance of Nioussérê Kalala Omotunde’s Work

Today, education in Africa is Eurocentric, meaning that African history is rarely well-taught in African schools. In Francophone Africa, the school manuals are written by Frenchmen on the continent, or in France, so there is barely any emphasis on Africa. We learn about Europe, China, Japan, Napoleon, all the French dynasties, wars, etc, but very little about OUR history. Thus, most Africans grow up without knowing anything about the Ishango bone, the Blombos Cave, Lucy, the Lebombo bone, or the fact that Pythagoras or Thales theorems were actually written in Egypt by the scribe Ahmose over 1000 years before Pythagoras visited Africa; or even that C-sections were a normal part of African medicine for centuries while in Europe, women were still dying during pregnancies, or even that ancient Egyptians were black! There are countless examples showing that the falsification of African history has been ongoing for centuries, and that there is so much missing in African school manuals.

A Conical tower at Great Zimbabwe

Why is Nioussérê Kalala Omotunde’s work important for Africans? NKO’s work is fundamental because he, like some other illustrious Africans, worked tirelessly to restore Africa’s place in the world. However, his work was not just telling us Africans that we were once great, but more importantly focused on shaking the consciences of many: if my ancestor was great, if my ancestors built the great pyramids of Egypt, how can I, African today, believe that I am meant to live in tin shacks? If my ancestors were the great architects and metallurgists of Great Zimbabwe, why should I keep adopting the European materials for building when ours have lasted over centuries? how can I wait for foreign aid, when I have been blessed with fertile lands? How can I be eating wheat from Ukraine, when I could go back to ancient grains such as fonio, sorghum, millet which have always been a part of my diet for centuries (How Africa Copes with The War in Ukraine: Alternatives to Wheat – Ancient Grains?)? How can I import paper, when my ancestors developed the first support medium for writing (paper comes from papyrus)? How can I act like I do not know mathematics, when my ancestors where the amazing Egyptian mathematicians? How can I feel so lost in medicine or just focus on European medicine, when in Bunyoro kingdom, we had master gynecologists who could perform c-sections centuries before Europe? How can I be stuck with the FCFA when my ancestors invented currencies using silver? How can I, an African child, feel so small? How can I, an African child, focus only on misery, as opposed to what nature has given me? I need to raise my head, and see, and take the grain God has given me, and turn it into a tree!

I invite you to read some of his books, which can be found at: Anyjart.

Egusi Ice Cream Anyone? Caterpillar Ice Cream? … What about African Flavors in Ice Cream?

Tapiwa Guzha, founder of Tapi Tapi (Source: sossegodaflora.blogspot.com)

Can you imagine having Egusi ice cream? or dried fish or edible clay or caterpillar or Chin Chin ice cream? … well… think no further! In 2020, Zimbabwean postdoctoral student Tapiwa Guzha who emigrated to South Africa for studies, had the idea of creating an ice cream parlor that represented African foods, flavors, and cultures. He thought of sharing his love of science, his specialty being plant biotechnology, to educate others with flavors from the continent. Thus was born Tapi Tapi, which means sweet sweet in the Shona language of Zimbabwe. Guzha mixed in typical traditional African flavors from all over the continent into his ice cream. To date, he has made over 900 different flavors from some of the most amazing African spices, nuts, seeds, fruits, flowers, clay, and even caterpillar. Tapi Tapi‘s sugar cones are made with millet, cassava, sorghum, maize, and plantain flour.. Enjoy, and if you are ever in Cape Town, don’t be shy… go and try out these amazing African flavors! Excerpts below are from the Guardian! Please also check out this very good article from TravelEssenceMag, and another from CNN.

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Baobab ice cream (Source: Tapi Tapi)

Caterpillars, dried fish and clay are not what you would expect to find in ice-cream, but one Cape Town cafe with a mission to celebrate African foods and culture has used all three as ingredients in its frozen desserts.

Handcrafted, authentic African ice-cream,” reads a sign at the entrance to Tapi Tapi. Inside, the counter is filled with ice-creams in various shades of beige and brown. They look underwhelming, but the blackboard listing the flavours suggests differently.

Tshego Kale, a 22-year-old student and part-time worker in the cafe, explains the menu. “First up is prekese and kei-apple jam. Prekese is a spice from west Africa, sometimes used in soups,” she says. “Kei apple is a sour fruit, but the ice-cream is sweet with a bitterness coming through.” Rooibos, fermented pineapple and lime is next: “It’s sweet, not as dense; good for hot days.”

There are three ice-creams containing chin chin – a fried snack from west Africa. One is paired with African bird’s eye chilli, and has “a kick that comes towards the end”. Another one features clay as the second ingredient: “It has an earthy flavour, very mellow and smooth with a biscuity texture.”

Egusi, a combination of seeds used in west African cuisine, is mixed with pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg in another ice-cream. “People from overseas have said this one tastes like Christmas,” says Kale.

Rooibos

Tapi Tapi and its African ice-cream is the brainchild of Tapiwa Guzha, who first came to Cape Town as a student from Zimbabwe. In the two years since it opened, he has created about 900 flavours.

Each tub he makes is unique and never repeated. His aim is to use ice-cream as a vehicle for educating and inspiring people about African flavours. When making a new flavour, Guzha thinks of an ingredient and what he wants to achieve by using it.

He explains: “What point am I trying to make by creating that flavour? Am I trying to showcase something new that people don’t know about? Am I trying to teach people about a cooking technique that turns out certain dishes or flavours? Or am I looking at a cultural icon?”

The idea for Tapi Tapi came in 2018, when Guzha was doing post-doctoral research in plant biotechnology but wanted a change. “I was looking for ways of communicating about science without having to rely on the scientific process – journal publishing, conferences and keeping knowledge in academic spaces,” he says.

Guzha had been making ice-cream for 10 years with dry ice that was delivered to his research labs, after seeing how it was done on a cookery show. One day, it dawned on him that he had never made a specifically African ice-cream. “I realised there was something faulty in the system. The moment you taste a flavour that connects you to home, your culture, your land – it’s a different experience.”

Eyeglasses to fit African Facial Features?

Glasses

Do you think that difference races have different bone structure? Could one look at a skeleton and tell the race of the owner? Well, remember Cheddar man [Ancient Britons were Black, confirming Cheikh Anta Diop’s Work], and how he was identified thousands of years later via DNA and the facial reconstruction to be a Black man based on his bone structure as well? So the big question then is, if each race has a particular bone structure, doesn’t it mean that things like glasses (eyewear) cannot be one-size-fits-all? 

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A Ugandan eyewear company thinks so. Wazi Vision is making glass frames affordable for Africans, and to fit African features. Truly, the founder points out true differences that often get ignored: the currently manufactured eyewear out there fits either European or Asian features; leaving marks on our (very African) nose bridges (and the good Lord knows that that’s one feature that is distinctly different from others’), or tightening near the ears, or even sagging down. I love that we have a new generation of ophtamologists, optometrists, and opticians out there who address problems specific to us. Wazi Vision started out to conduct free eye tests, and fit people with affordable eyewear. Wazi Vision now makes frames out of plastic, recyclable materials, cow horns, and much more. I call on others to think outside the box to address our needs. 

Excerpts below are from the article on AfricaNews, and check out the website of Wazi Vision.

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Ophthalmologist glasses (Source: Merriam-Webster.com)

Wazi Vision conducts many eye test camps in hard-to-reach areas around Uganda. The free services cater to those who ordinarily wouldn’t afford to see an ophthalmologist, yet vision problems are common in the country.

And with a cross-subsidization model, those who are diagnosed with refractive errors get eyewear they manufacture, at affordable prices.

… At the workshop in Kampala, the eye clinic is ever open since the needs are huge: “We know that as we grow there is a reading tendency and most people have been cut off from reading because of presbyopia in most cases and we have encountered a lot of those cases“, ophthalmologist Frank Bogere explains.

When a team of innovators started Wazi in 2016, they wanted to create accessibility to eyewear for marginalized communities.

… Using recycled plastic, it is the first company in East Africa to design and manufacture eyewear. They also use other locally available materials like cow horns, bamboo, and offcuts from clothes like jeans. And, they produce custom-made frames.

It is a source of pride for Geogette Ochieng Ndabukiye, the co-founder of CMO: “Eyewear frames that people wear are not for their facial features. They are mostly made for the European and Asian facial features so you find that when Africans, when Ugandans wear their glasses, over time they begin to squeeze them, they begin to get marks here, the glasses fall, but Wazi here in Uganda is the first company to design and manufacture eyeglasses that are fit for African facial features“.

World’s First Set of Nonuplets is 1-year Old!

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Halima Cisse, mother of nonuplets and the medical team in Morocco (Source: Africafreedomnetwork.com)

Can you imagine trying for one baby and ending up with 9 at once? It has been one year since the birth of the world’s first set of nonuplets. Conceived naturally, a first in the world, the 5 girls and 4 boys have all survived and are healthy and growing well. The parents, Abdelkader Arby and Halima Cissé, are from Mali. The babies have been taken care of by a full medical team in a hospital in Morocco. Initially, the medical teams both in Mali and then later in Morocco thought Halima Cissé was expecting septuplets, and so they were all surprised to find 9 babies in the end. Again, I salute the wisdom of the Malian government who saw fit to have the mother transferred to Morocco for more advanced specialist care; and I salute the immense dedication of the Moroccan team and government to the well-being of the babies. Excerpts below are from an article on the BBC website.

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The nonuplets (Source: BBC)

The world’s only nonuplets – nine babies born at the same time – are “in perfect health” as they celebrate their first birthday, their father has told the BBC.

They’re all crawling now. Some are sitting up and can even walk if they hold on to something,” said Abdelkader Arby, an officer in the Malian army.

They are still in the care of the clinic in Morocco where they were born.

He said their mother Halima Cissé, 26, was also doing well.

It’s not easy but it’s great. Even if it’s tiring at times, when you look at all the babies in perfect health, [in a line] from right to left we’re relieved. We forget everything,” he told BBC Afrique.

He has just returned to Morocco for the first time in six months, along with their elder daughter, Souda, aged three.

They will just have a small birthday celebration with the nurses and a few people from their apartment building, Mr Arby said.

Nothing is better than the first year. We will remember this great moment …”

The babies broke the Guinness World Record for the most children delivered in a single birth to survive.

Mrs Cissé and the children are currently living in what their father described as a “medicalised flat” that belongs to the owners of the Ain Borja clinic in Casablanca where the babies were born.

There are nurses who are here, in addition to my wife, who help to take care of the children,” Mr Arby said.

… [The] boys are called Mohammed VI [in honor of the Moroccan king], Oumar, Elhadji, Bah [in honor of the Malian president at the time], while the girls are named Kadidia, Fatouma, Hawa, Adama and Oumou.

Each one has a unique personality, their father said.

They all have different characters. Some are quiet, while other make more noise and cry a lot. Some want to be picked up all the time. They are all very different, which is entirely normal.”

Mr Arby also thanked the Malian government for its help. The Malian state has put everything in place for the care and treatment of the nine babies and their mother. It’s not at all easy, but it’s beautiful and something that is comforting,” he said.

Everyone [in Mali] is very keen to see the babies with their own eyes – their family, friends, our home village, the whole country.”

The Travelling Telescope – Stargazing in Kenya

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A student at Ololomei Primary School in Maasai Mara, Kenya, looks through a Dobsonian telescope during a school workshop with the Travelling Telescope (Source: Travelling Telescope)

Have you ever stared at the sky wondering what each constellation is? or whether you can see the surface of the moon? or other galaxies? I am sure many African children, and children everywhere have spent countless hours staring at the night sky trying to pierce its secrets, but very few will ever get the chance to look through a telescope. One organization which I have recently been introduced to, the Travelling Telescope, wants to change that. Any person in love with astronomy appreciates the value of a telescope, and will definitely love the idea. Based in Kenya, the Travelling Telescope is an organization which focuses on empowering youths and is dedicated to social change via the use of astronomy. It offers astronomy entertaining and educational tools and is the only astronomy company in the Eastern African region. The vision came to founder, Susan Murabana, when she met her now husband during a solar eclipse; their love gave birth to the Travelling Telescope – a gathering place for people to look through a telescope and observe the wonders of the night sky.

The BBC did a podcast on the Travelling Telescope, as well as Lessons in awe and wonder from Kenya’s Travelling Telescope from the Christian Science Monitor. The article from the Monitor – The Travelling Telescope brings stars to students is pretty good as well. Excerpts below are from Lessons in awe and wonder from Kenya’s Travelling Telescope.

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Susan Murabana, co-founder of The Travelling Telescope company, points out objects on the night sky with a laser pen for students at the Kisaruni Girls School in Kenya (Source: Travelling Telescope)

After watching a solar eclipse together in 2013, Susan Murabana and her partner, Chu Owen, hatched a plan to share the night skies with Kenyan schoolchildren.

They bought a big, 12-inch optical telescope and started an astronomy business: The Travelling Telescope. They’ve reached more than 200,000 kids. They charge Kenya’s wealthier private schools and safari lodges for astronomy lessons so that they can freely share the telescope and a portable planetarium with public-school children.

As they peer at the objects in our solar system, they hope to awaken a deeper sense of what makes this planet so special.

Yes, we want to get more astronomers. That would be good,” says Ms. Murabana. “But more than that, we want … the next generation of leaders and scientists – who will be in charge of our planet – to be more kind and make better decisions about our home.”

How Africa Copes with The War in Ukraine: Alternatives to Wheat – Ancient Grains?

Sanoussi Diakite demonstrating the capabilities of the Fonio husker to women (Source: RolexAwards.com)

Today, I would like to highlight the work of yet another African who has been working on alternatives, this time bringing back ancient grains to the forefront. Meet Senegalese Sanoussi Diakite, professor of mechanical engineering, who has invented a fonio husker machine. Diakite has been working tirelessly for several years to find ways to husk fonio. For those who know it, fonio is a cereal that has been cultivated for centuries if not millennia in at least 16 African countries from Cape Verde to Chad. Fonio is nutritious, gluten-free, high in dietary fiber, and drought resistant. It grows anywhere and does not need fertilizers. It is one of the fastest-growing cereals, reaching maturity in as little as 6 to 8 weeks. Unfortunately, it is very labor intensive to husk. It takes about 2 hours to pound (yes you heard it right, women pound the fonio) to get 2 kg of fonio. It could easily take a woman the whole day to pound the fonio if she has a large family (not including the preparation of the meal afterwards), and this is one of the reasons many have shied away from the ancient grain in their nutrition. Diakite’s husking machine produces 5 kg of fonio in 8 minutes. Talk of a revolution! 

The Fonio Husker Machine has been patented, and effectively husks and cleans the fonio grains as they pass through the shifting and flexible paddle which is set on a vertical axis and on top of a fixed plate. The separation of grain and husk is done simultaneously. To learn more, take a look at the article on MyHero, Kumatoo, and and his bio as he was awarded the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. It might have taken time, but like he says himself to BBC, everything is endurance and perseverance; at the core, he wanted to help women and reinstate the millennial grain.

How Africa Copes with the War in Ukraine: Clean Energy Alternatives

oil3In recent weeks, we have all felt the effects of the war in Ukraine, particularly at the gas pump. Prices keep going up everyday, forcing many to either stop driving, start biking, use public transportation, or switch to electric or hybrid vehicles when possible. The gas prices unfortunately affect almost everything else, such as the cost of food, given that it costs more to transport from the place of production to the stores. Today, we will highlight two African inventors who have been working on energy alternatives for quite a while now, but have now come to the forefront thanks to the crisis in Ukraine.

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Elie Tubani (Source: Le Journal TV5 Monde)

Meet Elie Tubani, a Congolese University student in Goma, in Democratic Republic of the Congo, who has successfully powered cars with butane gas used for cooking. The city of Goma is located on the shores of Lake Kivu, which is known to be rich in methane; it is one of 3 lakes in the world, all in Africa, that undergo limnic eruptions, the African Lake with Explosive Power. Thus, Tubani’s invention is very important for Goma, the entire region, and using what the country has (natural gas) for energy production. As a side note, neighboring Rwanda has been using methane from Lake Kivu for electricity.

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Maxwell Chikumbutso presenting his hybrid helicopter (Source: GlobalBlackHistory.com)

Now comes Maxwell Chikumbutso, an inventor from Zimbabwe. Chikumbutso has created a Radio-frequency powered television: no power cable needed, and the TV is powered purely by radio waves similar to WiFi and Bluetooth. He said to The Herald, “With an RF-powered generator embedded on a TV set, it is now possible for many people to enjoy watching TV whilst they are off-grid. For me, this started off as a dream in 2003, but today it’s now a reality. We have successfully developed a solution that powers televisions, smartphones, laptop computers, fridges just to name a few.” His invention is a green energy solution, as it converts radio frequencies into clean renewable energy. Lately, he has manufactured a hybrid helicopter which runs on 6 different types of fuel, a green power generator which produces electricity with radio frequencies, cordless televisions, an electric car which does not need to be charged (watch out Elon Musk, there might be some competition in the future), and much more. Chikumbutso is the founder of Saith Holdings Inc.. Unfortunately, he has not had much support from the government; he was not able to patent his work because the authorities said that his inventions violated the laws of physics. To learn more about him and his inventions, please check out this article at the Perimeter and The Hub.News.

Now, these inventors remain underrated as our African governments still seem to think that great inventions will come from the West, or given that their agenda and development are run by foreign entities, their hands are tied. It is high time that Africans understand that in order to be competitive in the future, we need to be industrialized, and we have the manpower for it, as well as great minds that will propel us forward. Our deliverance will not come from the west or the east, as they after all look for their own interests not ours, but we have the potential to address our own problems directly with solutions that work for us. Is it not about time Africa believed in herself?

The Hoba Meteorite: The Biggest Meteorite ever Found on Planet Earth

Namibia
Flag of Namibia

As we have seen at the beginning of the week with the Gibeon meteorites, thousands of years ago, massive meteorites crashed on land in Namibia. Up until recent times, the local people were using the iron from these rocks to build tools and weapons.

In many cases around the world, the colonialists/foreigners/invaders have taken the meteorites, or large parts of them, from the native people who had used them for centuries. The one case where this has not happened is in the case of the Hoba meteorite, also located in Namibia like the Gibeon meteorites. Estimated to weigh a bit over 60 tons, the Hoba meteorite has remained too heavy to move since its fall on earth 80,000 years ago. It was buried until its discovery in 1920 by a farmer who was plowing his land. Since it has been found, its size has dwindled to about 60 tons today from 66 tons at the time of its uncovering, due to pieces getting chipped for scientific research, vandalism, and weathering.

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A side of the Hoba Meteorite (Source: AmusingPlanet.com)

All experts agree that the Hoba meteorite is the biggest intact meteorite ever found on earth to date. It is located about 20 km west of the city of Grootfontein, in the Otjozondjupa Region of Namibia. It is estimated that it fell on earth about 80,000 years ago. The meteorite has an overall area of 2.70 x 2.20 m at a height of about 1 m, and is estimated to be between 200 to 400 million years old. Like the Gibeon meteorites, it consists mostly of iron (82.4 %) and nickel (16.4 %) with traces of cobalt and some other elements. It was named Hoba after the Hoba Farm located in the Otavi Mountains. The word Hoba itself comes from a Khoekhoegowab word which means ‘gift‘; at 60 tons, it is indeed quite a gift!  In the early 1950s, an American research laboratory tried to have it moved, but it would not budge! Maybe the ancestors were against their gift to the Namibian people being moved away?… who knows?

It was declared a National Monument in 1955. Wouldn’t it be nice to stand on top of the Hoba meteorite and contemplate its extraterrestrial origin, and its age, imagining life 200 to 400 million years ago.

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Hoba meteorite (Source: TheVintagenews.com)

The Gibeon Meteorites: Prehistoric Extraterrestrial Vestiges in Namibia

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The Gibeon Meteorites Plaque by the National Monuments Council

Several thousand years ago, a massive meteorite crashed on land in Namibia. A large portion of space rocks were found not too far from the village of Gibeon in Namibia, thus the name Gibeon meteorites. The local Nama people, and their ancestors before them, used to make metal iron tools and weapons from these rocks. In more recent times, in 1838, Captain J.E. Alexander stumbled upon them during his travels and sent specimens to the world famous astronomer John Herschel in England, who also named the 7 moons of Saturn and the 4 moons of Uranus; Herschel identified the Gibeon meteorites as extraterrestrial.

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Some of the Gibeon Meteorites at the Post Street Mall, Windhoek, Namibia

Since then, over 150 meteorites have been tracked and recovered, although some of the more valuable specimens have been stolen or smuggled out of the country or donated to various research institutions around the world. In 1950, 30 of these prehistoric extraterrestrial wonders were declared National Monument. Today, they are exposed on the Post Street Mall in the capital Windhoek. Additionally, all meteorites found in Namibia are automatically protected and classified as National Monuments, and must not be removed from where they have been found or damaged in any way.

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Gibeon Meteorites, Windhoek, Namibia

The Gibeon meteorites are rich in iron, nickel, and small amounts of cobalt. More nickel has been found in them compared to some other meteorites found elsewhere. The rock is crystalline when polished and etched. The strewnfield for Gibeon meteorites is perhaps the largest in the world.

If you ever visit Windhoek, please do not forget to stroll down Post Street Mall, and enjoy these prehistoric extraterrestrial wonders, and remember that some of our ancestors’ tools came from these.

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Overall view of the Gibeon Meteorites, Windhoek, Namibia