The oldest written reference to the territory now known as Eritrea is the chronicled expedition launched to the fabled Punt by the Ancient Egyptians in the twenty-fifth century BC under Pharaoh Sahure. Later sources from the Pharaoh Hatshepsut in the fifteenth century BC present a more detailed portrayal of an expedition in search of incense. The geographical location of the missions to Punt is described as roughly corresponding to the southern west coast of the Red Sea. The name Eritrea is a rendition of the ancient Greek name, Erythraa, the Red Land""."
One of the oldest hominids, representing a possible link between Homo erectus and an archaic Homo sapiens, was found in Buya in 1995 by Italian scientists. The cranium was dated to over 1 million years old. Furthermore, in 1999, the Eritrean Research Project Team, composed of Eritrean, Canadian, American, Dutch, and French scientists, discovered some of the earliest remains of humans using tools to harvest marine resources, at a site near the bay of Zula, south of Massawa. The site contained obsidian tools dated to the paleolithic era, over 125,000 years old. Epipaleolithic or mesolithic cave paintings in central and northern Eritrea attest to early hunter-gatherers in this region.
A US paleontologist, William Sanders of the University of Michigan, also discovered a possible missing link between ancient and modern elephants in the form of the fossilized remains of a pig-sized creature in Eritrea. Sanders claims that the dating of the fossil to 27 million years ago pushes the origins of elephants and mastodons five million years further into the past than previously recorded, and asserts that modern elephants originated in Africa, in contrast to mammals such as rhinos that had their origins in Europe and Asia and then migrated into Africa. In addition to Sanders, the research team included scientists from the Elephant Research Foundation of Wayne State University in Michigan, USA, University of Asmara in Eritrea; Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, USA; the Eritrean ministry of mines and energy; Global Resources in Asmara, Eritrea; the Musum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris; the National Museum of Eritrea; and German Primate Center in Gttingen, Germany.
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