Article

Landscape, history and power: The Zimbabwe Culture and the Nambya state, north-western Zimbabwe

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

An archaeological identity of the Nambya state in north-western Zimbabwe is attempted by interrogating available oral accounts to determine how monumental stone structures in the region contributed to the development of the historical landscape. The research employs concepts of ‘listening’ to inform the archaeology connected with the state, which is also recalled in the recent histories of the Nambya people. Chronometric dating indicates that the Nambya state developed earlier than previously thought, and a review of the oral accounts indicates very close connections with Great Zimbabwe. It may have been an offshoot of the expansion of the Zimbabwe Culture on the Zimbabwe plateau during the fifteenth century, like the Mutapa state (1400-1900 AD). The clustering of monumental stone structures in north-western Zimbabwe is best informed by oral accounts, which show how royal capitals or palaces, and by extension, state power, shifted from one place to another.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... It is noteworthy that landscape archaeology in most regions of the world is as old as mainstream archaeology [20,[44][45][46]. In recent years, its transdisciplinary nature has allowed the interlacing of multiple datasets in reconstructing how ancient societies transformed global landscapes (i.e., grasslands, drylands, and woodlands) into settlements, farming lands, and pasturage (i.e., [4,6,11,25,26,[47][48][49]). One notable study germane to this research is that of Kay and Kaplan [8]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Throughout the world, the entanglement of humans and landscapes varies from area to area depending on the time scale. In southern Africa, the impact of humanity on the physical environment is largely discussed in the context of modern rural and urban societies, and, usually, most contributions come from human geography, agriculture, and earth sciences. Very limited research is usually extended into the deep past, yet the archaeological record is replete with valuable information that gives a long-time depth of past human land use practices. Consequently, the contribution of the physical environment to the development of complexity over time remains poorly understood in most parts of Iron Age (CE 200–1900) southern Zambezia, particularly in Mberengwa and other gold-belt territories that have often received cursory research attention. What remains obscured is how did inhabitants of these gold-belt territories transform their landscapes in the long and short-term and how did these transformations intersect with their everyday lives? In this study, we combined archaeological, historical, and anthropological data of the Zimbabwe tradition societies that lived in ancient Mberengwa to probe these issues. The preliminary outcome suggests that despite vulnerability to high temperatures, tsetse-flies, and low rainfall, Later Iron Age societies that inhabited this gold belt territory were innovative risk-takers who successfully adapted a mix of land use practices to achieve longevity in settlement and prosperity in agropastoralism, mining, crafting, and much more. This proffers useful lessons on sustainable land use. Hopefully, with modification to suit the present, such solutions may help policy makers and modern societies living in similar environments to combat current global challenges related to environmental change.
Article
Full-text available
Archaeology is in a period of change, a point of inflection in which the discipline strives to reject its colonial roots. Embracing the “ontological turn,” archaeologists are applying diverse worldviews within their interpretations, yet these worldviews continue to reintroduce colonial ideals as they emerge out of Western philosophical schools. Using Native American philosophy, a recent addition to the academy, several key themes are identified and applied to the study of Late Archaic shell rings found along the Southeast United States coastlines. Through these themes, these sites are interpreted as places where Native Americans established communication with non-human forces and eventually socialized the newly formed coastline. The use of Native American philosophy is provided as a counter-balance to the use of Western philosophy as a means of further decolonizing archaeology
Article
Full-text available
The governance of archaeological heritage, mostly in the Global South, is impeded by competition with complex socioeconomic and political interests among different stakeholders namely policy-makers, politicians, local communities, academics and other interest groups. This paper examines the interactions and involvement of state and non-state actors in the management of archaeological heritage sites, ancestrally linked to a minority ethnic group, and situated in the marginal Hwange district in northwestern Zimbabwe. Special reference is made to the stone-built archaeological structures that are historically associated with the descendants of the Nambya state, a precolonial socio-political formation that came into demise in the early 20th century. Today, the Nambya people remember, celebrate and revere some of the stone-built archaeological places such as Bumbusi, Mtoa and Shangano that are located in Hwange district. However, in spite of the local reverence, these archaeological sites are poorly conserved, unprotected from wild life and other related threats. Following Laurajane Smith's (2006) authorised heritage discourse theory, this paper discusses how the current state-driven and controlled heritage administration system, haunted by the legacy of colonialism, is struggling to meaningfully engage other key players such as resource ministries, non-governmental organisations, universities and local communities in promoting the good governance of archaeological heritage.
Article
Full-text available
While pioneers of archaeology in any given region have established the foundations of the discipline, their views have not remained unchanged in places such as Europe, North America and Australasia. In these regions, successive generations of researchers changed the direction of their work based not just on new observations but also in light of new methods and theories. For example, the idea of a Bronze Age revolution popularised by V. G. Childe in Europe was superseded by multiple alternatives over the years. In southern African Iron Age studies, John Schofield, Gertrude Caton-Thompson, Roger Summers, Keith Robinson and Peter Garlake created an impressive platform upon which successors could build. Confronting firm disapproval from more experienced researchers in the early 1980s, Huffman speculated that the evolution of sociopolitical complexity in our region was a linear relay from Mapungubwe to Khami via Great Zimbabwe. This position was sustained as the conventional wisdom largely, we argue, because no new research was being carried out in key areas of the region, and too few students, in particular African ones, were being trained to expand the focus of investigation. Here, we present new data to support our argument, that the pathway to sociopolitical complexity in southern Africa was multilinear. We propose looking forward rather than back, and to continue to seek the exposure of scales of interaction between multiple but chronologically overlapping entities associated with the rise of sociopolitical complexity in southern Africa.
Chapter
Full-text available
This collection of essays draws inspiration from current archaeological interest in the movement of individuals, things, and ideas in the recent past. Movement is fundamentally concerned with the relationship(s) among time, object, person, and space. Contemporary scholarship has highlighted the enmeshed nature of people and things (Olsen, 2010), with a particular focus on temporality as an expression of overlapping durational flows (Olivier, 2004, 2008). In our globalized world, archaeologists of the recent past are faced with a proliferation of movement episodes that shaped and are shaping the archaeological record (cf. Sheller & Urry, 2006).
Article
Full-text available
‘Any study of Great Zimbabwe has to rely a great deal on re-examining and re-assessing the work of early investigators, the men who removed all the most important finds from the ruins and stripped them of so much of their deposits’ (Garlake 1973: 14). The authors have here done us a great service in reviewing the surviving archaeological evidence from this world famous site. They challenge the structuralist interpretation – in which different parts of the site were allocated to kings, priests, wives or to circumcision rituals – and use the architectural, stratigraphic and artefactual evidence accumulated over the years to present a new sequence. The early enclosures on the hill, the Great Enclosure and the valley enclosures now appear as the work of successive rulers, each founding a new residence and power centre in accord with Shona practice.
Article
Full-text available
Across the globe, the emergence of complex societies excites intense academic debate in archaeology and allied disciplines. Not surprisingly, in southern Africa the traditional assumption that the evolution of socio-political complexity began with ideological transformations from K2 to Mapungubwe between CE1200 and 1220 is clouded in controversy. It is believed that the K2-Mapungubwe transitions crystallised class distinction and sacred leadership, thought to be the key elements of the Zimbabwe culture on Mapungubwe Hill long before they emerged anywhere else. From Mapungubwe (CE1220-1290), the Zimbabwe culture was expressed at Great Zimbabwe (CE1300-1450) and eventually Khami (CE1450-1820). However, new fieldwork at Mapela Hill, when coupled with a Bayesian chronology, offers tremendous fresh insights which refute this orthodoxy. Firstly, Mapela possesses enormous prestige stone-walled terraces whose initial construction date from the 11th century CE, almost two hundred years earlier than Mapungubwe. Secondly, the basal levels of the Mapela terraces and hilltop contain élite solid dhaka (adobe) floors associated with K2 pottery and glass beads. Thirdly, with a hilltop and flat area occupation since the 11th century CE, Mapela exhibits evidence of class distinction and sacred leadership earlier than K2 and Mapungubwe, the supposed propagators of the Zimbabwe culture. Fourthly, Mapungubwe material culture only appeared later in the Mapela sequence and therefore post-dates the earliest appearance of stone walling and dhaka floors at the site. Since stone walls, dhaka floors and class distinction are the essence of the Zimbabwe culture, their earlier appearance at Mapela suggests that Mapungubwe can no longer be regarded as the sole cradle of the Zimbabwe culture. This demands not just fresh ways of accounting for the rise of socio-political complexity in southern Africa, but also significant adjustments to existing models.
Article
Full-text available
Much is known about the economy and spatial organization of Zimbabwe culture entities of Mapungubwe, Great Zimbabwe and Khami but less in terms of their origins and relationship with each other. Based on little tangible evidence, it is believed and widely accepted that the societies based at Mapungubwe (ad 1220–1290), Great Zimbabwe (ad 1300–1450) and Khami (ad 1450–1820) rose, developed and eclipsed in tandem. A recent reexamination of the relationship between these settlements and related ones using local ceramics, imported artefacts, stone architecture and Bayesian modelling suggests this may not have been the case. The synthesis proffered revelations which temper the widely accepted assumption that sociopolitical complexity in southern Africa began in the Shashi-Limpopo Valley before anywhere else in the region. Firstly, there are numerous Zhizo and Leopard’s Kopje sites that predate Mapungubwe but contain prestige goods and stone structures dating from the late first millennium ad. Secondly, material culture studies and modelled radiocarbon dates indicate that Great Zimbabwe evolved out of Gumanye while Khami, like Mapungubwe, may have developed out of the Leopard’s Kopje. In fact, Great Zimbabwe was already a place of importance when Mapungubwe collapsed. Thirdly, Khami and Great Zimbabwe overlapped for over a century, before the latter buckled. Therefore, the evolution of sociopolitical complexity in southern Africa may have followed trajectories that are different from what the current understanding implies.
Article
Full-text available
Huffman has used historical data and evidence from other Zimbabwe settlements to critique Chirikure and Pikirayi (2008)'s interpretation of Great Zimbabwe. However, we argue that he has misunderstood Portuguese written accounts and that his treatment of the radiocarbon chronology is methodologically unsound. Moreover, use of other Zimbabwe settlements to interpret Great Zimbabwe has poor analytical weight on the site itself because it requires universalising structuralist models that are severely constrained. Future work on Great Zimbabwe and other Zimbabwe settlements must take these points into account, as well as requiring full publication of previous research at the site itself. Huffman a employé des données historiques et les témoignages d'autres sites de la culture de Zimbabwe pour faire une critique de l'interprétation du Grand Zimbabwe proposée par Chirikure et Pikirayi (2008). Cependant, nous soutenons qu'il a mal compris les textes portugais et que son traitement de la chronologie radiocarbone est défectueux du point de vue méthodologique. De plus, le fait d'employer d' autres sites de la culture de Zimbabwe pour interpréter le Grand Zimbabwe n'a pas grande force analytique, car cela exige l'utilisation de modèles structuralistes universalisants très limités. Les recherches futures sur le Grand Zimbabwe et autres sites de la culture de Zimbabwe devront tenir compte de ces points et il faut aussi publier toutes les recherches déjà entreprises au site éponyme lui-même.
Article
Full-text available
Vegetation gradients developing around water sources (i.e. piospheres) are important features of arid and semi-arid ecosystems. Studied extensively in pastoral areas, piospheres have rarely been investigated in areas hosting rich herbivore diversity. We studied piospheres in woody cover assessed through remote-sensing in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, which has one of the world's largest elephant populations. As no preferred statistical model for piosphere studies has emerged, we first contrasted results from ordinary least-square (OLS) regressions on raw data with those from other statistical models (OLS on aggregated data and simultaneous autoregressive models on raw data), and selected the most parsimonious, unbiased, model to study the influence of artificial and natural waterholes, and the abundance of elephants, others browsers, and grazers on piospheres. OLS models provided unbiased parameter estimates, despite the strong spatial autocorrelation present in woody cover data, whereas other statistical models had important drawbacks. Using an OLS framework we showed that despite an important negative non-linear mean effect, distance-to-water was a poor predictor of woody cover at any location. Woody cover was on average more reduced in the vicinity of water at artificial waterholes than at natural waterholes. Elephant abundance was not consistently associated with lower woody cover, and poorly explained woody cover heterogeneity, as did all other herbivore-related variables. Our study indicates that piospheres may develop differently in pastoral and protected areas, suggesting the importance of herbivore diversity in ecosystem functioning. Our results also show that heterogeneity in woody cover persists within piospheres, calling for further investigation on the origin and role of this heterogeneity in the maintenance of ecological processes and biodiversity within these key-areas of the landscape.
Article
Full-text available
This article explores conflicts over a series of ruins located within Zimbabwe's flagship National Park. The relics have long been regarded as sacred places by local African communities evicted from their vicinity, and have come to be seen as their ethnic heritage. Local intellectuals' promotion of this heritage was an important aspect of a defensive mobilization of cultural difference on the part of a marginalized minority group. I explore both indigenous and colonial ideas about the ruins, the different social movements with which they have been associated and the changing social life they have given the stone relics. Although African and European ideas sometimes came into violent confrontation – as in the context of colonial era evictions – there were also mutual influences in emergent ideas about tribe, heritage and history. The article engages with Pierre Nora's notion of ‘sites of memory’, which has usefully drawn attention to the way in which ideas of the past are rooted and reproduced in representations of particular places. But it criticizes Nora's tendency to romanticize pre-modern ‘memory’, suppress narrative and depoliticize traditional connections with the past. Thus, the article highlights the historicity of traditional means of relating to the past, highlighting the often bitter and divisive politics of traditional ritual, myth, kinship, descent and ‘being first’. It also emphasizes the entanglement of modern and traditional ideas, inadequately captured by Nora's implied opposition between history and memory.
Chapter
In the midst of a growing movement to promote and secure Indigenous land rights recognition in Indonesia, a small community in Sulawesi (the Kajang) became known as the model site for reclaiming state land under the Indigenous title. Other Indigenous communities, coalitions of activists, government officials, and international observers alike began to visit Kajang to learn not only about the regulatory process to secure Indigenous land title, but also to better understand what one local official described as the most participatory of regulations. I describe my research collaborations in Kajang and how this process prompted me to shift my research focus beyond the securing of regulatory outcomes. Rooted in a framework of participatory action research, collaborative ethnography, and participatory geographies, I describe a process to establish and undertake research partnerships in Kajang over a 21-month period. I deepen methodological engagement on knowledge co-production by engaging voices within the landscape to be more clearly heard. I do this through the day-to-day actions of families farming their fields as well as through the planning processes that village administrators undertake to reshape the region.
Article
National historical narratives generally leave out local histories of groups on the periphery of society. This is accentuated in colonised settings where colonial powers promote the narratives of dominant cultures, which soon become national meta-narratives. As an example, peoples on the fringes of colonialism in the Philippines were described as remnants of the past and this exoticizes their cultures. These descriptions became the basis of their identity. We argue that vigorous community engagement provides venues for learning and unlearning histories and empowers marginalized peoples. In this paper, we present how recent archaeological data force the rethinking of history and subsequently empowering descendant communities to take control of their history and heritage. We describe the establishment of the Ifugao heritage galleries as an example of museums becoming areas of contestations and emphasize the fact that no one has the monopoly on the creation of knowledge.
Chapter
Archaeologists struggle to understand the demise of Great Zimbabwe because of poor appreciation of local and regional histories of the southern Zimbabwe plateau, post-fifteenth century. Listening to some of these extant regional histories and living narratives is key to understanding developments around Great Zimbabwe from the sixteenth century onwards. The focus in this chapter is on two sites, Boroma, a toponym east of Great Zimbabwe, and Chizhou Hill, some 80 kilometers to the north. In sixteenth-century Portuguese accounts, "Burrom" (Boroma) is presented as a prince in charge of a 'fortress' whose location coincides with Great Zimbabwe. Local narratives and indigenous histories collected from villagers near Chizhou Hill, as well as documented written sources, connect the site to the resettlement of the area by migrants from the Mutapa State in northern Zimbabwe. Combined, both sites attest to a complex process leading to the demise of Great Zimbabwe and its culture from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
Article
Fourteen glass beads and one glass fragment from Khami‐period (ad 1400–1830) sites of Danamombe, Naletale, Gomoremhiko, Nharire and Zinjanja, in Zimbabwe, were analysed by pXRF and Raman spectroscopy with the intention of correlating the results with associated radiocarbon dates. The results show that Zinjanja and an earlier part of the Danamombe stratigraphic context had Khami Indo‐Pacific beads (15th–17th centuries) corresponding with Torwa occupational layers. Other European beads and one bottle fragment [high‐lime, low‐alkali (HLLA) glass] dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries were confined to the top stratigraphic layers of Danamombe and Naletale, which coincide with the later Rozvi occupational layers. Gomoremhiko had one Mapungubwe–Zimbabwe bead series (13th–15th centuries), which suggests that it was probably earlier than the other sites. All European beads are made of soda–lime plant‐ash glass with high alumina, which makes them comparable with glass produced through the Mediterranean traditions in Southern Europe.
Book
This collection of essays in Archaeologies of Mobility and Movement draws inspiration from current archaeological interest in the movement of individuals, things, and ideas in the recent past. Movement is fundamentally concerned with the relationship(s) among time, object, person, and space. The volume argues that understanding movement in the past requires a shift away from traditional, fieldwork-based archaeological ontologies towards fluid, trajectory-based studies. Archaeology, by its very nature, locates objects frozen in space (literally in their three-dimensional matrices) at sites that are often stripped of people. An archaeology of movement must break away from this stasis and cut new pathways that trace the boundary-crossing contextuality inherent in object/person mobility. Essays in this volume build on these new approaches, confronting issues of movement from a variety of perspectives. They are divided into four sections, based on how the act of moving is framed. The groups into which these chapters are placed are not meant to be unyielding or definitive. The first section, "Objects in Motion," includes case studies that follow the paths of material culture and its interactions with groups of people. The second section of this volume, "People in Motion," features chapters that explore the shifting material traces of human mobility. Chapters in the third section of this book, "Movement through Spaces," illustrate the effects that particular spaces have on the people and objects who pass through them. Finally, there is an afterward that cohesively addresses the issue of studying movement in the recent past. At the heart of Archaeologies of Mobility and Movement is a concern with the hybridity of people and things, affordances of objects and spaces, contemporary heritage issues, and the effects of movement on archaeological subjects in the recent and contemporary past.
Chapter
The World Heritage Convention provides a powerful platform to develop and test new tools for sustainable development. However, the Convention comes with its own unique complications. This paper highlights the challenges inherent in nominating the Barotse Plains Cultural Landscape (BPCL) as a World Heritage property. One of the major motivations behind the proposed inscription was the potential strengthening of the cultural identity of the Lozi people and the recognition of this culture at an international level. The BPCL was submitted for World Heritage nomination in 2013 under World Heritage Criteria (iii), (v) and (vi). IUCN, in its evaluation and recommendation, stressed the importance of the natural values of the site and proposed to extend the boundary to include all key attributes. In addition, the ICOMOS evaluation found that all three proposed criteria had not been met, and there were concerns about mining explorations. The World Heritage Committee has often espoused the philosophy that World Heritage Sites, first and foremost, need to be protected, rather than be a source for economic gain. In Zambia, the authorities feel that they have to decide between conservation and development and fear that World Heritage inscription will prevent any major economically charged development. In conclusion, it is obvious that there is a major divide between development and conservation interests in the BPCL, leaving Zambia in a dilemma thereby jeopardizing its potential for nomination as a World Heritage property. Therefore, a broader integrated approach to planning for conservation and development is needed.
Article
In southern Africa, there has been a long-standing but unsubstantiated assumption that the site of Khami evolved out of Great Zimbabwe's demise around ad 1450. The study of local ceramics from the two sites indicate that the respective ceramic traditions are clearly different across the entire sequence, pointing towards different cultural affiliations in their origins. Furthermore, there are tangible typological differences between and within their related dry-stone architecture. Finally, absolute and relative chronologies of the two sites suggest that Khami flourished as a major centre from the late fourteenth/early fifteenth century, long before Great Zimbabwe's decline. Great Zimbabwe also continued to be occupied into the late seventeenth and perhaps eighteenth centuries, after the decline of Khami. Consequently, the combined significance of these observations contradicts the parent-offspring relationship implied in traditional frameworks. Instead, as chronologically overlapping entities, the relationship between Khami and Great Zimbabwe, was heterarchical. However, within the individual polities, malleable hierarchies of control and situational heterarchies were a common feature. This is in tune with historically documented political relations in related pre-colonial southern Zambezian states, and motivates for contextual approaches to imagining power relations in pre-colonial African contexts.
Article
Twenty-eight representative beads found at the thirteenth-fourteenth century AD site of Mutamba (North of South Africa) were classified morphologically and then analysed with pXRF. Eighteen beads were selected from four identified series of K2-IP, EC-IP, Mapungubwe Oblate and European for Raman spectroscopy. The results show corrosion has a great effect on the composition and nanostructure of bead series with lixiviation of alkalis or precipitation of secondary products of corrosion on the surface. With all of Despite these changes pXRF and Raman spectroscopy were successful in discriminating of the bead series by considering the concentration of trace elements (Zr, U), detected pigments (lead tin yellow (II), red lead), opacifiers (SnO2, calcium antimoniate) and colorants (Fe, Cu, Co) and their concentrations in the beads.
An Intrasite Investigation of the Dhaka House Platforms at Shangano dry Stone Enclosure
  • Tapiwa Chikalipo
Displacement and the Establishment of the Hwange National Park: A Social History of the Nambya, 1898-1940.” Masters diss., Faculty of Arts
  • Openheimer Chiweshe
The Wankie Tribal Trust Land Communities: Wankie District
  • A Elliot
A Multi-Stable Isotope Analysis of Faunal Remains from Shangano, a Zimbabwe Culture Site in North Western Zimbabwe
  • Miniyenkosi Majoli
The Historical Tradition of the Peoples of the Gwembe Valley
  • Timothy I Mathews
An Analysis of Beads from Shangano, a Zimbabwe Culture Site in Hwange
  • Humphrey Nyambiya
Tracing the Historical Experiences of the Nambya People through Their Toponyms and Anthroponyms
  • Raphael Nhongo
The Past in the Present: The Zimbabwe Culture and other Archaeological Heritage in North-Western Zimbabwe
  • Plan Shenjere-Nyabezi
An Analysis of Pottery from Shangano, North-Western Zimbabwe.” Bachelor of Arts Honours diss
  • Tariro Zhou
Material Culture and Dialects of Identity and Power: Towards a Historical Archaeology of the Rozvi in South-Western Zimbabwe.” Masters of in Archaeology diss
  • Lesley Machiridza
  • Hatipone
Traditional Connoisseurs’ of the Past: The Ambiguity of Spirit Mediums and the Performance of the Past in Southern Zimbabwe
  • Joost Fontein
Heritage as Community Research: Legacies of co-Production
  • Helen Graham
  • Jo Vergunst
The Victoria Falls: A Handbook to Victoria Falls, the Batoka Gorge and Part of the Upper Zambesi River. Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia: Commission for the Preservation of Natural and Historical Monuments and Relics
  • J Clark
  • Desmond
Introduction: The Collaborative Continuum
  • Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh
  • T J Ferguson
The Ruins at Bumbusi
  • J M Kearney
Listening to Great Zimbabwe’s Local Histories and its Toponyms
  • Pikirayi
Indigenous Peoples, Heritage and Landscape in the Asia Pacific: Knowledge Co-production and Empowerment. London: Routledge
  • Stephen Acabado
  • Da-Wei Kuan
The Shona and Zimbabwe 900-1850: An Outline of Shona History
  • David Beach
  • Norman
A Zimbabwean Past: Shona Dynastic Histories and Oral Traditions
  • David Beach
  • Norman
The Nambya People of Wange
  • M E Hayes
The History of the Abenanzwa Tribe
  • H E Hemans