Thulamela Kingdom's golden legends
Did you know?
The ancient people of Thulamela were the ancestors of the modern-day Venda people.
Pafuri, in the wild and woolly north of the Kruger National Park, is where you go if you love baobabs, bird-watching, buffalo, elephants, solitude and the old adventurers' accounts of the legends of Thulamela. In the Shona language, the name Thulamela means to ‘give birth’.
There's a little hill near South Africa's border with Zimbabwe where, today, you will find these ‘upside-down' trees, perhaps pick up the traces of wild dog passing, or a Sharpe's grysbok out there in the distance, under the white seringa.
Eight centuries ago, however, the place teemed with ancient African trade. From the glass beads and pottery shards found on Thulamela Hill, researchers have learnt that Arabs, Madagascans and Indonesians visited here, bearing trade goods from as far afield as China, in the form of Ming vases for example. In return for these pretty baubles, the visitors departed with slaves, ivory and gold, lots of gold.
Ancient African civilisation was in full swing up on Thulamela Hill. Master goldsmiths were hard at work. Hunters came in for a brief respite before venturing back into the Limpopo Valley after vast herds of elephant. In fact, Thulamela overlooked an elephant highway that ran from the Indian Ocean in the east, westwards towards the Okavango.
Thulamela was probably ruled by a senior chief, who lived secluded on the top of the hill. His subjects clustered about the base of the hill, numbered no more than 2 000
In the early 1990s, official excavations revealed a female skeleton who was subsequently dubbed 'Queen Losha'. Venda women show their respect for men by placing their hands next to their left temples when they pass. That's exactly how 'Queen Losha' (in real life, probably no more than a senior wife to the chief) was found buried.
Two months later they found the skeleton of an important man who soon took on the name of 'King Ingwe' (leopard), because on the day of the find, a leopard was waiting near the researchers' vehicle when they returned.
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