Thulamela in Kruger Park, a "technologically sophisticated community who had trade links with t
Thought to be associated with the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Thulamela is situated high on a hilltop in the northeastern corner of the Kruger National Park. More than 600 years ago, a peaceful tribe lived on a hilltop near what is presently, the border between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Thulamela is a Venda word meaning "place of birth". Archaeologists believe that people lived at Thulamela between about 1420 AD and 1650 AD. Stone ruins of a royal citadel found in the northern Kruger National Park date back to between the 15th and 17th centuries. Thulamela was discovered in 1996. Archaeologist Sidney Miller was commissioned to head the team of five workers who spent 18 months painstakingly reconstructing the fallen walls of Thulamela. From the positioning of the scattered stones, the team was able to deduce the original position, height and thickness of these walls. More than 2 000 tons of rock were manually shifted in the process of restoring the site to some of its former glory. Originally, stonewalls were built to show the high status of the royal family, demarcate living areas and provide privacy. The vast area covered by Thulamela's walling is evidence that in its heyday, the city housed approximately 2 000 people. Iron-age implements, ceramic potsherds, glass beads, spinning whorls, sewing needles and even a piece of Chinese porcelain was brought to the surface. The presence of these items confirmed the hypothesis that gold, iron and other metals were smelted at Thulamela by a technologically sophisticated community who had trade links with the Far East. In August 1996, archaeologist Sidney Miller discovered two graves within the royal enclosures. Miller, in close consultation with the local communities, opened the graves. One contained the remains of a man bedecked in gold jewelry, thought to have been the king of Thulamela ruling about 1400 AD. He holds a spear, the handle of which was originally covered in gold foil affixed to the wood underneath with minute gold nails. The blade of this spear, which was found on the gravesite, was not sharpened. This suggests that it was probably a symbol of leadership. Around his neck are gold and ostrich shell beads. The other contained the remains of a particularly tall woman buried in a fetal position. On her left forearm was a plaited, golden bracelet of exceptional beauty. The Thulamela Trail can be arranged with Amatungulu Tours. Book now at www.amatungulu.com for tours and safari to the Kruger National Park.