Mapungubwe, a mystical space revered by people such as Jan Smuts and Cecil John Rhodes, it’s a place where culture and wildlife come together.
Wildlife apart, it is the site of the first kingdom in Southern Africa, even older than the Zimbabwe ruins. Before 900 AD this unique diverse landscape was occupied by people and the first kingdom was established here on Mapungubwe hill and the surrounds, it was a powerful group and there is much evidence of trade with cultures such as China, India, Persia and Egypt who traded beads and shells for ivory, copper and gold. The trade took place in Mozambique. Many of these items have been found by archeologists and the famous one-horned golden Rhino, a gold bowl, a sceptre are examples of the many artifacts found.
We did the tour of the hill and the surround landscape with an amazing guide who is linked to the hill through his grandfather who was involved in opening the route to the top where there is much evidence of this ancient ciivilisation that thrived in the fertile flood plain. Three graves were excavated which revealed that dead were buried facing west in a seated position with clay pots and gold beads. On the top of the hill ther are storage larders and “board games” carved into rock.At the base of the hill excavation show a cross section filled with bones, detritus and pottery shards.The civilisation thrived for many years until around 1290 when climate change caused drought, the kingdom split and people migrated to Great Zimbabwe and the Northern part of the Kruger National Park.
In 1932 our guides grandfather revealed the location of the kingdom to a local farmer and his family, en-route to the hill there is evidence of a second civilisation evidenced by a clearly visible wall much of which has survived the passage of time, we also found fresh lion spoor which indicate that passing of a group of lion prior to our arrival. A more recent but sadder part of our visit was the remains of a notorious SADF military base “Greefswald”which was used for behavioural modification of alleged non-compliant conscripts. The area seems to have been sanitised, but there are logos of various visiting units still visible on rocks as well as evidence of structires and building rubble. This area has now been turned into a picnic site, once you leave the are you follow the route towards “ poachers corner “, shortly after this one comes across a SADF ammunition bunker and the remains of an ablution block that would have serviced the conscripts that guarded the facility. Rumour has it that the bunker also serviced the Rhodesian Army who would cross the river to replenish supplies. All in all the visit was an amazing experience and a unique opportunity to tap into the history of very special part of Africa.