The Bumbusi National Monument is a large site about 40 kms from Hwange, consisting of stone walls, boulders, platforms and the ruins of dwellings. Its main structures date from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Excavations in 2000 revealed the floors of eighteen original dwellings.
The site is listed in the Watch List of 100 MostEndangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund because of the threats posed to the sandstone walls by wild animals from the surrounding nature reserve. The site was already damaged by early prospectors and is now at risk from mining a few kilometers away.
Report of the World Monuments Fund on Bambusi.
THE RUINS AT BUMBUSI.
An excerpt from a paper by Mr. J. M. Kearney (Proceedings of the Rhodesia Scientific Association, Vol. VII, 1907 — full article with illustrations)
Bumbusi lies about twenty-seven miles west of the Wankie Colliery. It is a large vlei about six miles long and from half a mile to a mile wide.
On the south side are sandstone kopjes, and on the north side basalt kopjes, the vlei lying on the line of fault between the two formations. The ruins rest on the sandstone kopjes, and are built of sandstone slabs taken from the weathered edges of the large isolated sandstone blocks. These blocks have no doubt attracted the people who built the ruins, as the latter are in many cases built on them, and in other cases among them.
From the fact that in nearly all cases traces of circular wood and dagga huts are plainly seen within the walls, it would seem that these walls were built mainly for protection. The builders seem to have chosen an elevated site, preferably on the top of an isolated rock, and after levelling up the top by a concrete floor, have built a wall round the outer edge, and, in case of a large enclosure, dividing walls within, with gateways, rounded off at the corners and about two feet wide.
Where there are a number of these smaller enclosures together the builders have joined them into a rough circle by a wall built between the sandstone blocks. The walls in all cases have been built in the same fashion. They are about three to four feet thick. The front wall and inner wall have been built of flat slabs about one foot square and three inches thick, and the cavity between has been filled up by broken stones about two inches in diameter. There is no sign of any mortar having been used. No ornamentation has been attempted, unless we count the rounded gate posts as such. One huge block of sandstone, which is pointed out by the natives as the Chief’s Kraal (photographs A, B and C), shows signs of having been built with greater care and with the view of easy defence. Outer circular walls join all the raised blocks, and the entrance through this wall has been narrowed till one man only could pass at one time. At each side of this entrance small towers have been built. Dividing walls (photograph D) cross within, no doubt to act as an inner defence. The kraal itself stands on a huge block of stone in front of an immense baobab tree. The summit is large enough to hold one or two huts only. The uneven walls of this block have been built up with masonry, so that when first built there was only one approach to the top along a narrow ridge. This has been enclosed on both sides by fairly high walls ending in small towers at the corners, and leaving room between for one man to pass. The ground has been raised to the height of these walls, so that the inmates could fight from above. This narrow path zigzags slightly till it reached the top near the huts. In and around this kraal are numerous walls and enclosures, which seem to indicate a fairly numerous population (photograph E).
Although the buildings are very crude, an enormous amount of work has been done, especially where the faces of rocks have been built up and the ground within raised.
From the attempt at defensive works at the Chief’s kraals, it would seem that they have been a poor imitation of the ruins in Mashonaland. This may be so, as the natives in the district say that the Chief was Zanke, who was a son of Mamba of Mashonaland, and who trekked from there at the beginning of the nineteenth century and settled at Bumbusi. As this opens up another disputed matter I will leave it to others with better information.
The natives were no doubt closely related to the M’Nanzwas who inhabit the Wankie district to-day. In journeying about the country around the Deka I have in two cases found ruins of a similar kind to those at Bumbusi, lying on the top of kopjes overlooking Kaffir gardens. The ruins were not in as good repair as those at Bumbusi, but the same style of walls and buildings could be traced.