ANCIENT ZIMBABWEAN CIVILIZATION:
EVIDENCE FOR A SEMITIC CONNECTION VIA THE LEMBA
by David McNaughton
Adapted and published as 'The African Connection' in Horizons magazine (Khaleej Times, Dubai, UAE), 6th February 1987
Lying in the interior of tropical southern Africa are hundreds of stone ruins. The largest of them, situated near Masvingo (previously called Fort Victoria), were known in the 16th century as Symbaoe1; later they were called the Zimbabwe Ruins. They consist of a fortress on a hill, nicknamed the Acropolis, and an elliptical "temple" now referred to as Great Zimbabwe. A dozen or so other sites were obviously satellite settlements of secondary importance2. All buildings were unroofed, and were constructed using dry-stone walling techniques, i.e. without any cement or mortar, meaning that the granite bricks had to be carefully shaped and trimmed so as to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Virtually all these structures lie within the territory formerly known as Southern Rhodesia (now renamed Zimbabwe). Brief references were made to the Zimbabwe Ruins in 16th century Portuguese writings3. The site was visited again during the 19th century by Adam Renders, followed by other European explorers.
During the early 1900s various theories were proposed (including some
rather exotic ones) as to who might have constructed those buildings. Some
people favoured a northern hemisphere connection4. Others attributed
them to ancestors of Shona Africans now inhabiting the area5;
this Shona theory is now the one which is "officially in favour".
Prehistoric contacts with southeast Africa
It is beyond dispute that the Indian Ocean, including much of its African coastline, has been travelled for two thousand years or more. For instance, there is a record of Phoenicians circumnavigating Africa6 in about 600 BC. Evidence that a mass migration from the East Indies to Madagascar took place many centuries ago is provided by the relationship between Malay and a main language of that island7. Arab traders were visiting Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam before the beginning of the Christian era, and around 60 AD the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (in Greek) was compiled as a guide to East African, Arab and Indian sailors. In particular, it has been argued that the "Fire Islands" mentioned there, could well have been the volcanic Comoro group8, because they are placed at the entrance to the "Channel". The description in the Periplus continues further southwards, although names of rivers and harbours can no longer be identified with certainty.
Indeed, the winds along the Mozambique coast do tend to alternate between
northeasterlies and southeasterlies - often on an almost weekly as well
as on a seasonal basis9 - such that two-way travel there would
have been extremely easy.
The gold of ancient Zimbabwe
Many thousands of prehistoric gold-workings are scattered round the
former territory of Southern Rhodesia - over an area, in fact, similar
to that containing the ruins10. Some calculations indicate that
more than 20 million ounces were extracted11. Exploiters of
such riches often prefer not to disclose their source, so it is quite credible
that most of it ended up in the northern hemisphere12. In
the sixth century AD, Cosmas Indicopleustes of Alexandria13
referred to gold acquired by trade with southeast Africa (where "winter
occurred during northern hemisphere summer"); so did Mas'udi and Ibn Al
Wardy in the tenth century - when it was apparently being exported from
an Arab trading post at Sofala (on the coast, east of the Zimbabwe Ruins:
the modern resort there still carries the old name). That gold could easily
have been first detected in alluvial mud at the mouth of the Zambezi river,
and perhaps also in the Sabi.
Indicopleustes and Mas'udi both mention that it was the Abyssinians who were involved in the gold trade.
Evidence for a Semitic ancestry of the MaLemba
An African tribe in the extreme north of South Africa, the Lembas, has a tradition14 that its male ancestry originally comprised "white people from over the sea who came to southeast Africa to obtain gold".
Some years ago, Tudor Parfitt and his colleagues at the University of London discovered, using DNA analysis, a large Jewish component in the male ancestry of the Lemba people15. Particularly surprising was the fact that members of the most senior Lemba clan displayed the Cohen Modal Haplotype, which is a distinctive feature of Jewish priesthood.
The MaLemba refuse to eat pork, rabbit, hare, carrion and scaleless fish, exactly as laid down in Leviticus chapter 11. When preparing meat for consumption, they always kill in the "kosher" manner by bleeding16. The Lembas also have a distinctive New Moon ceremony.
A number of words and clan-names used by Lembas must have had a Semitic origin17, e.g. Sadiki, Hasane, Hamisi, Haji, Bakeri, Sharifo and Saidi (which is one of their words for "master"). Some individuals possess aquiline noses and narrow, non-negroid lips. It must be mentioned that there are also indications of Semitic blood, although much more diluted, in Vendas and Karangas - implying that traces of the original Zimbabwean genetic material survive in these other (nearby) communities too.
The Reverend A.A. Jaques tells us that Lemba prayers18 were ended by saying "Amin" - which is of course a Jewish custom as well as a Christian one. If they had learned this through contact with Christian missionaries, then they would probably pronounce it correctly as "Amen". In any event, their liturgy bears absolutely no resemblance to any of the Christian ones. On the contrary, Jaques cites what might be a reference to Moses in one of the Lemba prayers. He also mentions that the Lemba had a taboo about eating with the left hand.
Other tribes regard the Lembas as the originators and masters of the
art of circumcision19, which is interesting
because stone phallic symbols found at various Zimbabwean ruins definitely
represent circumcised organs. Indeed, this is only one of many apparent
links between that tribe and Zimbabwe.
Other pointers linking the Lembas with ancient Zimbabwe
Until quite recently, and unlike other Bantu communities, the MaLemba had a propensity for building in stone - in Zimbabwean style, without cement; the Dzata ruin in Vendaland is one such remnant which may still be viewed20.
In addition, Lembas are unusual amongst African Bantu in their ability for mining and metallurgy21. In fact, they still provide neighbouring tribes with metal tools - using copper obtained from deposits in their area. (But - not surprisingly - even as early as the 18th century, Lemba workmanship could not match the standards displayed by the buildings and gold ornaments found at Great Zimbabwe).
Furthermore, the Lembas bury their dead in an extended position, just like the ancient Zimbabweans did - in contrast to the "crouched" posture adopted by other Bantu peoples22.
Stone spindle whorls found at Great Zimbabwe indicate that cotton was spun and woven with far greater sophistication there, than was displayed in other regions occupied by Bantu tribes. Cotton is of course not indigenous to southern Africa, but a few (now wild) cotton trees nevertheless seem to have been planted near that ancient city. Thus, it is relevant to note that (unlike most other Bantu) Lemba men used to wear a long cotton garment, similar to those found on the East African coast23.
The old Lemba language was almost the same as the one still spoken today in the Zimbabwean province surrounding the stone "temple" and main fortress.
Thus, several scholars support the belief that the Lemba tribe constitutes
a remnant of the creators of ancient Zimbabwe24.
Accomplishments: two opposing hypotheses
Civilization in ancient Zimbabwe attained a level far superior to that of other areas occupied by Bantu-speaking peoples. Some walls were ten metres high; many incorporated chevron, herringbone or chequered patterns. A set of steps leading into the main "temple" constitutes a true work of art: each course curves out of the flanking walls into the entrance, with the penetration of the curves increasing as the steps are ascended25.
The inhabitants of early Zimbabwe (whoever they might be) - were skilled water engineers, constructing dams feeding conduits and irrigation channels26. Regularly spaced terraces, which can still be viewed today, were carved into hills in the northeast of Zimbabwe27 (where rainfall is comparatively high, making this region suitable for agriculture). The ancient gold mines, too, required a measure of engineering skill, containing horizontal as well as deep vertical shafts28. Furnaces, crucibles and tools found at various sites indicate that the gold ornaments and jewellery accompanying them, were produced locally29.
Carbon-14 measurements on timber from the walls give a variety of ages30. However, they cannot tell us when the stones were shaped and placed: (the wood may have been inserted later). In particular, acceptance of the dates now associated with radioactive carbon at Great Zimbabwe and at Mapungubwe (which is just south of the Limpopo River) leads to the extraordinary conclusion that the general migration of ancient Zimbabweans was from south to north. That direction of movement is extremely difficult to understand - regardless of whether they were African or Asian.
In any event, Portuguese accounts suggest that the Zimbabwean Civilization had collapsed by the 15th century31. But if it really was created by Shona-speaking Bantu, then it could be asked why they failed to retain their former skills and techniques. If they lost these through being conquered and totally subjugated, then the obvious question is -"Who were the invaders?" (... certainly not the Matabele - who arrived in Zimbabwe very much later).
For many centuries, the Bantu people had actually been engaged in a
massive southward migration from equatorial Africa, displacing the original
Cappoid (Hottentot and Bushman) population. However, linguistic criteria,
skin pigmentation and blood-group comparisons indicate a relatively low
absorption of Cappoid stock by Shona people, making it unlikely that they
were the spearhead of that Bantu migration32.
Comparisons between Saba and southeast Africa
Another theory attempts to link ancient Zimbabweans with Sabaeans from southern Arabia33; (eventually, the Abyssinians probably took over the gold trade). Many questions still need to be answered, but Sabaeans certainly were wealthy gold miners34 - although it is not known where their mines were - with substantial commercial interests in East Africa, as well as elsewhere35. They spoke a Semitic language - closely related to Arabic - and followed a Judaistic type of religion (including circumcision) from the fifth to seventh centuries AD. Like the Lembas, they lived by the Moon; (Gayre also mentions a tradition that there was once a moon dynasty in Zimbabwe36). Furthermore, the Sabaeans constructed dams to serve their terraced agriculture, and built elliptical unroofed dry-stone temples at Marib and at Sirwah37.
However, male emigrants must have outnumbered females, so if Saba did
plant a colony in southeast Africa, then it probably contained native southern
African as well as Semitic blood by the time it attained maturity. This
may help explain why the old Lemba language was so similar to Karanga (which
is spoken today in Masvingo province, i.e. the region containing the Zimbabwe
Ruins), because children usually tend to pick up their mother's speech
Six points may be highlighted for debate:
1. Shona-style huts and artefacts have certainly been found in and around Great Zimbabwe, but they might have been placed there only after they overran ancient Zimbabwe - in which case they would probably have absorbed some of the previous inhabitants, and indeed learned something from them.
2. The above suggestion is supported by the existence of a tribe in the extreme north of South Africa (the MaLemba) which looks as if it might be the remnant of the original Zimbabwean civilization. Several factors point to a link between the Lembas and ancient Zimbabwe, implying that their ancestors may have fled southwards as they yielded to pressure from the Shona.
3. Judging by their customs and physical features, the MaLemba have much more Semitic 'blood' than other southern African tribes. Furthermore, during the early 20th century the Lembas were highly respected for their knowledge and skills - in particular, as excellent metalsmiths and doctors38.
4. The gold trade of Zimbabwe predated by several centuries the arrival there of the MaShona39.
5. If the MaShona built the old Zimbabwean civilization, then they would have been very different from all other southern African Bantu (apart from the MaLemba).
6. There are a few similarities between early Zimbabwe and the Sabaeans of southern Arabia - not just their temples, but also in the construction of irrigation channels, and their extensive agricultural terracing. DNA analysis confirms that the MaLemba do have Semitic male ancestors, consistent with their oral tradition.
There is sufficient doubt about the origins of the ancient Zimbabwean
civilization - to justify reopening the question of who was responsible
for creating it.
NOTES and REFERENCES
1. de Barros, J.
- 'Décadas da Asia'; originally composed in Lisbon, 1552. In:
of South-eastern Africa', collected by G. McCall-Theal; Cape
Colony Printers, 1900, volume VI, book 10; see page 267.
Regarding the name "Symbaoe", it is intriguing that Ptolemy's map of the world labels southeast Africa as "Agisymba": see 'Encyclopaedia Britannica' (9th edition), 1883, volume 15, plate VII.
Compare Gayre, R.** - 'The origin of the Zimbabwean civilization'; Galaxie Press, Zimbabwe, 1972, pp. 68-69. He suggests that the original name could have been "Sinbani", after the Sabaean Moon God. Local Bantu later may have applied this designation to the building, thereby creating a new word in their own language denoting "stone palace" or "court".
>> The fact that "dzimba" carries that meaning in Shona, is often cited as proof that this particular tribe constructed the ancient civilization. However, it would be instructive to investigate how many other Bantu languages contain this root-word. Certainly, it does not occur in SiNdebele, nor in SeSotho, nor Tswana, nor ChiBemba, nor Swazi. Thus, the root "dzimba" could well be a relatively recent acquisition in Shona - derived from an alien source.
** Gayre's book is probably obtainable from Used Book Central, or from Past Auctions: Africana, (or possibly from Dan Wyman Books in Springfield, MA, USA).. Available online at http://www.rhodesia.nl/onbook.htm
2. Gayre pp. 222-233 (i.e., Appendix
- written by Edmund Layland). Also see:
Popham, J.L. - 'Notes on the N'Natali ruin'; Proceedings of the Rhodesia Scientific Association IV (1904), pp. 67-71, and plate VI;
White, F. - 'Observations on recent discoveries at ancient ruins'; Proc. Rhodesia Sci. Assoc. IV (1903), pp. 14-20, and plates I to IV;
White, F. - 'Description of Lumene ruins'; Proc. Rhodesia Sci. Assoc. V (1905), pp 5-7, and plates I and II;
Hall, R.N. - 'Majiri ruins, Motirikoi (M'telekwe) valley'; Proc. Rhodesia Sci. Assoc. IV (1904), pp. 83-86, and plates XI and XII.
3. e.g. de Barros [my ref. 1], pp. 264-273.
Cited in Gayre's above-mentioned work, pp. 209, 215-217.
De Barros also mentions an inscription above the door of the temple, written in characters not known to the (well educated) Arab merchants who had seen it. If Parfitt's work [my ref. 15] confirms that there was a connection with south Arabia, then that unknown script could well have been Himyaritic. The existence of lettering over the entrance is also mentioned by Damião de Goes [original account in mediaeval Portuguese in McCall-Theal's 'Records ...', volume III, p.55 - translated into English on p.129; see reference in my note 1].
>> Randall-MacIver [my ref. 5; 1971 impression, p.99] tries to explain away that inscription by suggesting that the Moorish merchants were simply looking at the zigzag pattern running round the top of the wall!
4. Hall, R.N. - 'Prehistoric Rhodesia';
Unwin, London, 1909;
Hall, R.N. & Neal, W.G. - 'The ancient ruins of Rhodesia'; Methuen, London, 1902;
Bent, J.T. - 'The ruined cities of Mashonaland'; Longmans Green, London, 1896.
5. Randall-MacIver, D. - 'Mediaeval
Rhodesia'; MacMillan, London, 1906 (new impression: Frank
Caton-Thompson, Gertrude - 'The Zimbabwe Culture'; Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1931. Revised and reprinted as 'The Zimbabwe Culture, Ruins and Reactions'; Frank Cass, 1971. Although Miss Caton-Thompson does favour the Bantu theory above the others, she is not dogmatic that it has been proven beyond all doubt. Even in her revised edition, she acknowledges that there are plenty of puzzles and unanswered questions.
Beach, D. - 'The Shona and their neighbours'; Blackwell, Oxford, 1994. Professor Beach's argument that this tribe built Great Zimbabwe (pages 86-87) - is that the remains of Shona-style thatched houses are found in and around its enclosure, together with typical Shona pottery. However, these could well have been put there after the MaShona conquered Zimbabwe, i.e., when the original inhabitants of that city had been partly expelled and partly absorbed ... On p.106, Beach admits that he can find no logical reason why Great Zimbabwe went into decline [in his context - he believes it flourished until the Shona stopped occupying it. He claims that they abandoned that site just as the Portuguese were arriving on the coast - which conflicts with de Barros's account, described below]. The collapse of Ancient Zimbabwe is of course easy to explain in terms of a Bantu conquest.
Pikirayi, I. - 'Zimbabwe Culture: Origins and Decline of Southern Zambezian States'; AltaMira Press, Maryland, USA, 2001. On pages 23-24, Professor Pikirayi does actually acknowledge (and dismisses) Gayre's work on this topic - but without mentioning the central core of Gayre's thesis, namely the Lemba (who are never referred to anywhere in Pikirayi's book) ... In his pages 90-93, (unlike certain other scholars) Professor Pikirayi accepts that gold was being produced and traded in Zimbabwe around the 7th or 8th century AD ... He admits that he cannot adequately explain the collapse of that ancient civilization (pp. 150-154), nor its emergence (p.121).
Huffman, T.N. and Vogel, J.C. - 'The Chronology of Great Zimbabwe'; South African Archaeological Bulletin 46 (1991), pp. 61-70. Unfortunately, Huffman is sometimes guilty of ignoring portions of quoted sources when they do not fit his thesis. In particular on his p.69, when including de Barros's description of Great Zimbabwe [my refs. 1 and 3], he removes the reference to the inscription above the door, and also omits de Barros's report that the Bantu living there (in the early 1500s) had absolutely no idea who might have built it; instead, they said that it must be the "work of the devil".
>> Compare comments by Gayre, pp. 206-207, 218, 214 (including a footnote citing a Zulu writer to the effect that Zimbabwe was built by "white men who arrived before the Arabs"): see V.C. Mutwa's 'Indaba my Children' and 'Africa my Witness'; Blue Crane Books, Johannesburg, 1965 and 1966.
--- For a detailed review and analysis of the evidence, see 'The Mystery of the Great Zimbabwe' by Wilfred Mallows; Robert Hale, London, 1985. No particular theory is endorsed, regarding the identity of the builders.
6. The expedition was sponsored by the Egyptian
Pharaoh Neku II, and is mentioned by Herodotus of Halicarnassus
in his 'Historia', book 4, section 42. The voyagers
reported that the midday sun was on their right while they were
sailing westwards (which Herodotus refused to believe) - but that would
of course be a feature of the southern hemisphere.
An indication that Phoenician ships were indeed capable of that feat, is provided by Hanno's exploration round the bulge of West Africa. There is also some evidence that they traded as far away as Cornwall in England.
7. Murdock, G.P. - 'Africa: its peoples and their culture history'; McGraw Hill, New York, 1959, pp. 208 et seq. During and even before the "Dark Ages" in Europe, there was contact (probably with exchange of ideas and technology) between Polynesians, Malays, Malabaris, Hindus, Arabs, and Chinese. Sailing ships and their crews had certainly become quite sophisticated by 1500 (or even 2000) years ago. The Chinese had invented the magnetic compass by 200 AD - see 'Encyclopaedia Britannica' (9th edition), 1877, volume 6, p.226; also see Gayre, pp. 20-21.
8. Peters, C. - 'The Eldorado of the Ancients'; Pearson & Bell, London, 1902, p.316. Also see Hall ('Prehistoric Rhodesia'), p.64.
9. Atmospheric pressure fluctuations as
a cause of these wind (as well as weather) changes are discussed in Meteorological
Notes Series A nos. 11 and 40
- and Series B no. 50; Ministry of Transport
and Power, Zimbabwe.
Beyond Cape dos Correntes it can become difficult to sail northwards against the Agulhas current.
10. Gayre p.182 (map).
11. Gayre pp. 49-50, 179-181 and 229 (citing Hall & Neal); Murdock p.211.
12. Certain exotic plants and trees not
indigenous to southern Africa (such as jasmine, figs, lemons, and cotton)
occur near ruins or mines, suggesting contact with distant countries; see
Gayre pp. 52-57, 63; Hall & Neal p.116; Hall pp. 80, 196-197; van Warmelo
in my note 23.
>> M. Horton alludes to a deliberate policy of keeping secret that southeast African gold-source, citing the Yemeni writer Al-Hamdani of 942 AD; see 'The Swahili corridor' in Scientific American 257 (September 1987), pp. 76-84.
work 'Topographia Christiana' was translated by J.W. McCrindle
as Hakluyt Society publication no. 98, London, 1897;
see pp. 52-53 (book II). It is cited by R.A. Dart in
Influences of the Zimbabwe and Pre-Zimbabwe Eras'; Nada 32
(1955), pp. 19-30;
Native Affairs Dept., Southern Rhodesia. It is
also mentioned in Gayre's book on p.41; cf. Murdock, p.206.
Mas'udi's or Maçoudi's account (916 AD) is contained in 'Les Prairies d'Or' [parallel text in Arabic and French], translated by C.B. De Maynard and P. de Courtaille; Société Asiatique, Paris, 1864; see volume 3 (chapter 33), p.6.
The early exploration of the SE African coast is discussed by Kathleen M. Kenyon in Appendix V to Gertrude Caton Thompson's book, pp. 264-265 [ref. in my note 5]. Miss Kenyon also mentions Ibn Al Wardy (957 AD), as does Hall [my ref. 4] on pp. 69-72.
14. van Warmelo, N.J. , contributing to Hammond Tooke, W.D. - 'The Bantu-speaking peoples of southern Africa'; Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1974 (originally 1937), p.83; also see van Warmelo's publication in German referenced in my note 18, pp. 281 and 282 (which adds that there were large cities in their original homeland).
--- Confirmed by Junod, H.A. - 'The life of a South African tribe', volume I: 'Social life'; MacMillan, London, 1927, p.73.
--- In addition, see Gayre's articles mentioned in my note 16.
>> Professor Beach [my ref. 5] dismisses the Lemba as "Muslims of the interior" (p.161) - ignoring the fact that the Prophet Muhammed, the 'Quran', Ramadan and Mecca mean absolutely nothing to them.
--- And Miss Caton-Thompson [also in my ref. 5] does not discuss the Lemba at all - although they are acknowledged briefly in her Appendix IV (written by H. Stayt) which describes the closely associated BaVenda tribe.
--- Professor Pikirayi is yet another writer who completely ignores the Lemba, as too is Dr Peter Mitchell in 'The Archaeology of Southern Africa'; Cambridge University Press, 2002 - (which favours the "Shona" theory for ancient Zimbabwe). Similarly guilty (despite very brief references to Gayre and Parfitt) is Joost Fontein in 'The Silence of Great Zimbabwe - contested Landscapes and the Power of Heritage'; UCL Press, 2006.
15. Parfitt, T. - 'Journey to the vanished
city'; St. Martin's Press, New York, 1992 (also published by
Discussed in a long article on page 22 of The Times (UK) on 10th
Also see Thomas, M.G., Parfitt, T. et al. - 'Y Chromosomes Traveling South: The Cohen Modal Haplotype and the Origins of the Lemba - the "Black Jews of Southern Africa"; Amer. J. Human Genetics 66 (2000), pp. 674-686.
16. Gayre's book [my ref. 1] pp. 126-137, 65, 199-204;
... and articles by Gayre:
'The Lembas and Vendas of Vendaland'; The Mankind Quarterly VIII (Edinburgh, 1967), pp. 3-15;
'Some further notes on the Lembas'; The Mankind Quarterly XI (1970), pp. 58-60.
--- Those Lemba dietary restrictions are confirmed by van Warmelo - see my notes 21 and 18.
17. van Warmelo [in Hammond Tooke, my ref.
14, p.82]; Gayre pp. 135, 66, 103;
--- and Mullan, J.E. - 'The Arab builders of Zimbabwe'; published privately in Rhodesia, 1969, pp. 11-19; (this is cited by Gayre, p.163).
18. Jaques, A.A. - 'Notes on the Lemba
Tribe of the Northern Transvaal'; Anthropos XXVI (1931),
pp. 245-251; see p.249.
--- Dr N.J. van Warmelo gives other examples of Lemba prayers uttered in a completely alien, non-Bantu tongue. Those devotees have absolutely no idea what the words mean - but claim that they are in the language of their forefathers - 'Zur Sprache und Herkunft der Lemba'; Hamburger Beiträge zur Afrika-Kunde Bd. 5 (1966), pp. 273-283; Deutsches Institut für Afrika-Forschung; see pp. 279 and 281. There is of course no record of how, when, or whether the words had earlier been written down: in any event, they must have become mangled with the passage of time.
19. Junod [in my ref. 14] pp. 72-73, 94,
--- and van Warmelo, N.J. , contributing to Schapera, I. - 'The Bantu-speaking tribes of southern Africa'; Routledge and Sons, London, 1937, and Maskew Miller, Capetown, 1966, pp. 65-66; also see pp. 153, 257, 276. Described too in van Warmelo's contribution to Hammond Tooke [referenced in my note 14] pp. 81-84 and 115-116.
--- Also mentioned by Jaques [my ref. 18] p.247.
>> Gayre's book shows a picture of a circumcised phallic object from Great Zimbabwe - see p.143.
20. Gayre pp. 200-201 (including photos).
21. Gayre p.200; Murdock [my ref. 7] p.387;
van Warmelo - in Hammond Tooke [my ref. 14] p.81; Junod [my ref. 14] pp.
72-73; Trevor [my ref. 26].
--- Also van Warmelo, N.J. - 'The copper miners of Musina and the early history of the Zoutpansberg'; Ethnological Publications VIII (1940), pp. 52-53, 63-67; Dept. of Native Affairs, South Africa. The vernacular account of the MaLemba is given by M.M. Motenda - which, incidentally, confirms the dietary restrictions cited by Gayre [my ref. 16] in a comparison with the Mosaic Code. See too van Warmelo's German essay referenced in my note 18 (pp. 273 and 281) - which also describes the beautiful and distinctive pottery produced by Lemba womenfolk.
--- See my note 31 for comments on MaKaranga iron-working skills.
--- Major Trevor [my ref. 26] and the Reverend Jaques [my ref. 18] add that the Lembas were highly respected by surrounding tribes not just for their metallurgical skills, but also for their outstanding medical knowledge.
22. Murdock [my ref. 7] p.387 - also confirming the many basic differences between Lembas and other Bantu mentioned by van Warmelo, Gayre and Junod. Ancient Zimbabwean graves were identified by gold jewellery: see Hall & Neal [my ref. 4] pp. 101-106, 95; Gayre pp. 103-104, 126, 111 and p.230 (Layland's Appendix I).
23. Gayre pp. 52, 63-64.
--- The Lemba use of cotton in the past is cited by van Warmelo - in Hammond Tooke, my ref. 14, p.81 - and his German article in my ref. 18, p.281.
24. References in my notes 16 (Gayre) and 7 (Murdock). For earlier speculations regarding a Lemba-Zimbabwe link, see Hall & Neal, p.126 - and R. Wessman's 'The BaWenda of the Spelonken'; The African World, London, 1908, pp. 129-132; (English translation of a German publication by the Berlin Missionary Society).
25. Gayre p.56 (photo).
26. Gayre p.233 - Appendix I, by Layland, citing Randall-MacIver. Tudor G. Trevor describes comparable irrigation channels in the Zoutpansberg Mountains which he observed in the 1920s, and which had previously been used by the BaVenda people - 'Some observations on the relics of pre-European culture in Rhodesia and South Africa'; J. Royal Anthropological Inst. of Great Britain and Ireland 60 (December 1930), pp. 389-399. The Vendas were of course closely associated with the Lembas in the Zoutpansberg region, so it is quite possible that its irrigation system was constructed by the ancestors of the MaLemba.
27. Hall pp. 201-205, Gayre pp. 85-87 (with
photo) and 233 (where Layland reports that the ancient terraces extend
over 2500 square miles).
Professor Beach [ref. in my note 5; see pp. 126-129] does not think these sophisticated irrigation channels and terraces were cut by the builders of the Great Zimbabwean temple. He assigns those agricultural features to a completely different civilization, which he calls the "Nyanga Culture" - admitting to not knowing who created it.
However, because the elaborate stone buildings, the extensive gold mines (and ornamentation), and the irrigation networks all anomalies in southern Africa (confined to a comparatively small area) - surely it is reasonable to suggest that all three phenomena were derived from the same source?
28. Bent p.288 (mentioned by Gayre, pp. 179-181, with photos).
29. Gayre p.229 (citing Hall & Neal).
30. The first measurements were made by
W.F. - 'Chicago radiocarbon dates III'; Science
(1952); see p. 680. A piece of Spirostachys africana (tambootie
wood) was found above a drain in the inner wall of the Parallel Passage
in the Zimbabwe Elliptical Temple. Three estimates of its date were obtained:
540 AD ± 160 years, 610 AD ± 160 years, and 680 AD ±
260 years. They are cited and discussed by Dart, p.19; by Gayre, pp. 110-111
and 190; and by Murdock, p.210; [full references given in my notes 13,
1 and 7]. However, it is true that in a subsequent analysis those dates
were apparently revised to the early 1300s (see David Beach's
'The Shona and Zimbabwe, 900-1850';
Heinemann, 1980, p.324).
It does seem bewildering that such a large readjustment can be produced
after adopting new carbon-dating parameters and assumptions.
>> Like Great Zimbabwe, Mapungubwe was a 'dry-stone' construction containing exotic gold ornaments - i.e., both settlements were evidently part of the same civilization. Mapungubwe's 11th-century C-14 measurements are accepted and cited by supporters of the "Shona" theory, including Professors Beach and Pikirayi.
31. de Barros [refs. in my notes 1 and 3]; Hall pp. 40-47, 35; Gayre pp. 209-211, 216 (footnote). When the Europeans arrived, the local Bantu were not using stone when constructing their dwellings. Furthermore, all mine shafts, irrigation channels and agricultural terraces were in disrepair and overgrown. It is true, admittedly, that the MaKaranga were washing some fluvial gold in Rhodesia, aware that it had commercial value. They were also making iron weapons, but proponents of a non-Bantu origin for Zimbabwe argue that the Karangas could have learned such basic skills from the conquered civilization. According to 'Chambers's Encyclopaedia' (ILSC, London, 1973, volume IX, p.134) Karanga ironsmiths emigrated to Zululand in the 18th century, providing technical expertise for the Zulu empire; i.e. metal-working ability seems to have been confined to just a few Bantu tribes.
32. The Bantu migration was still in process
during the 18th century - meeting and confronting the Dutch in the eastern
Cape Province, which (like Rhodesia and the Transvaal) was previously inhabited
by Cappoids. Of tribes lying south and southwest of Zimbabwe, the BaTswana
have lighter-coloured skins, whilst the Nguni languages (such as Zulu,
SiNdebele, Xhosa and Swazi) contain certain "click" consonants, indicating
absorption of some original Cappoid stock by these four tribes. For a discussion
of Hottentot-Bantu mixtures in terms of gammaglobulin in blood, see P.V.
Tobias [in Hammond Tooke, my ref. 14, pp. 26-27] - citing Jenkins,
Zoutendyk & Steinberg in the Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop.
no.2 (1970), pp. 197-218.
When encountered by the British in the 19th century, Shona people were agricultural and pastoral, just like other tribes around them. Physically, too, the MaShona resemble tribes living to the north.
33. Bent p.vii, (cited by Gayre, p.84, who also favours the Sabaeans). By about the sixth century AD, the Aksumite Abyssinians had become the dominant power in the Red Sea, having subjugated the Sabaeans - which explains why both Cosmas Indicopleustes and Mas'udi attributed the southeast African gold trade to Abyssinians. In any event, there had been commercial and cultural links across the Aden Straits for many centuries; the Semitic languages of those two Red Sea countries were very similar. The Falashas of modern-day Ethiopia are the remnant of a Judaistic society there.
G.A. Wainwright draws some interesting parallels between Abyssinia and ancient Zimbabwe in 'The Founders of the Zimbabwe Civilization'; Man 49 (June 1949), pp. 62-66; Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. In particular, he presents a plausible explanation for the source of the name "Waqlimi" which - according to the Arab traveller Mas'udi - was traditionally carried by the Rulers of Ancient Zimbabwe during the 9th and 10th centuries AD. Mas'udi [see my ref. 13 - volume 3, pp. 29-30, 6] tells us that "Waqlimi" meant "Son of the Great Lord"; Wainwright points out that this appears to be a literal translation from the south Ethiopian langauage Galla.
34. Pliny the Elder - 'Naturalis
Historia', c.70 AD, volume VI, section xxxii.
Indeed, Sabaean gold wealth dates right back to the Queen of Sheba (= Saba): see 'The Holy Bible' - 1 Kings, chapter 10.
Also see the reference to Al-Hamdani in my note 12.
35. Gayre pp. 20-21, 31; Murdock pp. 204 et seq.
36. Gayre pp. 155, 159; de Barros [my ref. 1] p.269. It is interesting that the name of the mountain range "Nyanga" (or Inyanga) in the fertile northeast of the country, means "moon" in some Bantu languages.
37. Described by Doe, D.B. - 'Southern
Arabia'; Thames and Hudson, London, 1971.
Sirwah temple still has a standing wall containing an inscription; (only fragments remain at Marib). Cf. Gayre p.234.
38. See my note 21 - which also cites references 26 (Trevor), 18 (Jaques and van Warmelo), 7 (Murdock) and 14 (van Warmelo and Junod).
39. The discovery of gold in southeast African
rivers might even date back three thousand years; see notes 34, 6, 8 and
9; (these last three support the possibility of early prehistoric
It is worth emphasising that neither Junod, nor
van Warmelo, nor Parfitt, nor Jaques, nor Trevor - are seeking to prove
any theory on the origin of ancient Zimbabwe. Thus, their descriptions
of the MaLemba are completely detached from that controversy. In particular,
the first two authors confirm the Lemba role in introducing circumcision
to southern Africa, and their tradition of an overseas origin.
Link to History Index Page
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Link to 'History Comments' file: correspondence with the Nova website on this topic, and with the American journal Archaeology.
Link to Jerry
- containing a good selection of photos, along with extracts from Gayre's book