When we think of ancient castles and ruins, we tend to imagine the age-old cities found in countries like Italy or Greece. But Africa was home to some of the oldest empires in the world, and they left behind plenty of evidence of archaeologists.
1. Great Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe
Located in the lowveld outside Masvingo, in the southeastern part of Zimbabwe, the early Shona people established Great Zimbabwe between the 11th and 15th centuries. The 800-hectare colony was built mainly from granite blocks and split into three regions: the Hill Ruins, the Great Enclosure and the Great Valley. Each of the fields has been occupied by another portion of the population and the mountains are regarded a royal town.
The town quickly became a hub due to its well-organized design, trading in the Middle Ages with nations around the world (Persian and Chinese artefacts dating back to the 15th century were discovered in the region). But Great Zimbabwe had been deserted by the nineteenth century. It remains an interesting site to visit, and the long drive through Zimbabwe gives travellers plenty of time to see the sites, catch up on what’s happening in the world, and to enjoy some games .
2. Adam’s Calender – Mpumalanga, South Africa
Adam’s Calendar, re-discovered by Michael Heine in 2003, is a mysterious rock ensemble that’s organized in a circular form around two stone rocks. Located in the mountains of Emngwenya (formerly recognized as Waterval Boven) in Mpumalanga, Adam’s Calendar, dating back 75,000 years, is aligned with planet Earth’s natural cardinal points, representing solstices and equinoxes, and is regarded to be one of the oldest monolithic calendars.
3. Khami Ruins – Zimbabwe
This newly discovered city, named Khami, was established south of the Khami River, 22 kilometers outside of Bulawayo, after the collapse of Great Zimbabwe in the mid-sixteenth century. The village, like its precedent, was built primarily from a combination of granitic sand and clay, and divided into different sectors that was based on a hierarchy, with the leader occupying the mountains. Led by the Butua Kingdom’s Torwa family, Khami became a significant trading post.
Artefacts like Spanish silverware from the seventeenth century and Rhineland stoneware from the same period have been found in the area. Unfortunately, during the nineteenth-century Ndebele raids, the colony was deserted.
4. Kilwa Kisiwani – Tanzania
The surviving remains of Kilwa Kisiwani, once a popular trading port on the northern shore of Tanzania, consists of a few mosques, a palace and various other buildings. Kilwa Kisiwani’s place on the Indian Ocean, founded in the ninth century, enabled it to become an appealing trading destination on the west shore of Africa in the 1300s.
Artefacts such as Persian faience and Chinese porcelain discovered in the city’s remains are proof of the city’s external trade ties.
5. Mapungubwe – Limpopo, South Africa
Over 1 000 years ago, at the confluence of the streams Limpopo and Shashe, a huge African kingdom known as Mapungubwe thrived. Mapungubwe’s rise can be ascribed to its well-organized farming scheme and trade relationships with regions such as East Africa and India.
Mapungubwe, with a population of about 5 000, had a hierarchy-based settlement scheme. The rulers lived on the mountain, whereas the rest of the population resided under the mountain. In the late twelfth century, despite its huge growth, Mapungubwe was deserted until it was found in the 1930s.