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The Skull Caves of Taita Hills

The Taita Hills are home to three major tribes: the Sagalla, Dawida, and Kasigau. They each have their traditions and vernacular. But they have one similar practice. One of these practices was represented by the skull caves.

When a significant person died, their body was buried for a year before being exhumed. The skull was separated from the rest of the body and transported to a sacred cave to be buried with the ancestors. The skulls were arranged near the entrance, facing the setting sun and according to clans. Whenever they experienced diseases or drought, the people would pray to their ancestors for rain and protection from the diseases.

This tradition was similar to the Roman tradition of burying the dead in catacombs. However, what differentiated the two was what part of the body was buried and where.

Historians generally agree that this activity continued until the early twentieth century when the first Christian missionaries arrived in Kenya. Today, the caves and their ancient relics are considered sacred symbols of Taita culture and heritage. Moreso, the caves are open to visitors and the funds raised from the visits are then used to support conservation efforts on the hills and in the surrounding area.

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Dawida Kasigau Sagalla Skull Taita Hills


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