Saturday 19 August 2023

Tsindi stone ruins, 13th ~19th cent, Zimbabwe (African Civilization)

Tsindi Ruins, formerly known as Lekkerwater Ruins, are a set of lesser known dry-stone ruins built in the Zimbabwe tradition, situated on top of Tsindi Hill, rising about 150 meters above the valley floor of the Nyakambiri River, offering good views in all directions. The site is located 16km northeast of Marondera, Zimbabwe.

These modest ruins extend over an area of about 2 ha, forming a series of stone enclosures that housed daga huts. Excavations and radiocarbon dates indicate that the first walls of the settlement were built in the 13th century and were added to in the 15th century. “During the 17th or 18th century large clay huts were built within the enclosure and it is believed they were used for religious purposes by spirit mediums.” The site was violently destroyed, perhaps in the 1830’s during the Nguni invasions that defeated the Rozvi overlords of the region, after which the site continued to function as a refuge and cattle kraal. 

“The excavations revealed much pottery including stamped ware and decorated pottery from the 13th to 19th century; pottery objects included parts of female and animal figurines and dagga pipe bowls and spindle whorls made of clay. A number of iron arrowheads and blades were recovered, iron anklets and bangles and pieces of slag indicate smelting was taking place, although no furnace site was located. Stone artefacts included a pendant, quartz polishing stones, a granite hammer and grinding stones. Miscellaneous finds included shells. Some glass and metal beads were recovered and gold and copper rings.” 


“The VaNhowe tribe occupied this part of the county for some 250 years before they were defeated in the Mashona Risings (1896-7). Their chiefs, who bear the dynastic name Mangwende, lived on Mount Mahopo which rises steeply from the westbank of the Nyakambin River some 4 km across the valley from Tsindi Hill. Early in this century the tribe was resettled at Murewa so little remains in the Theydon district of its history and traditions. One of the first Native Commissioners (W. Edwards) published a short historical sketch of 'The Wanoe' and, more recently, Mrs J. Farrant collected evidence in the district for her biography of Bernard Miseki, a mission teacher, who was associated with Mungati, the last Mangwende to live on Mount Mahopo. 

A very old man told her that one of Mangwende's headmen, called Tsindi, had lived on the hill and he remembered that, as there was no water on Mount Mahopo, a procession of women and children, escorted by soldier guards, made the steep descent to the Nyakambiri for the day's supply (Farrant 1966).

This suggests a solution to the Lekkerwater water supply for which no other evidence has been found. The site is further from the Nyakambiri but a stream and springs exist at the foot of Tsindi Hill. Sakubvunza, the first of the chiefs of Nhowe, was one of the leaders of a Bantu migration from Chidema in the north and the succession alternated between two rival dynasties, stemming from two of his sons. 

At the time of the migration the Rozvi under Changamire were overlords of all other tribes. Sakubvunza was allotted land near the Jeta Hills (Domboshawa) and Nyamunga 'the country of Noe'. But Sakubvunza raided Nyamungo and annexed his land. In the 1830s, Swazi impis entered the country and defeated the Rozvi.

They remained only two years, after which the VaNhowe, who had not supported the Rozvi but had taken refuge in the mountains, returned to enjoy 30 years of peace. Later, however, the tribe suffered great hardship; drought was followed by famine and, when Mungati was chief, his leadership was undermined by intrigue arising from the dual chieftaincy (Edwards 1926). This brief outline of local history, compiled at the beginning of the century from oral traditions and living memory, makes strangely little mention of the great stone buildings on Tsindi Hill. 

These had long been in ruins and no evidence was found to suggest that either Sakubvunza or the  Mangwendes had lived on the hill, nor do we know whether the VaNhowe were in occupation of the 'country of Noe' before he annexed it and, if so, what their relationship was to the Q-type builders. There is however no reason to doubt the tradition of Rozvi domination from the middle of the 17th century until they were driven out by Nguni invaders in the 1830s. This part of the country has been designated a Moyo Rozvi nuclear area (Beach1980) so they must have been responsible for the demolition of the phase II occupation and the construction of the decorated daga huts in phase III.

The pottery associated with this phase, T/LC(ii)and(iii), appears to be derived from Zimbabwe 4 and Khami undecorated wares, variants of which became common throughout the country (Robinson 1959, 1961a). It could have been introduced at Lekkerwater by Changamire's women after he had taken over from the Torwa at Khami (Beach 1980:196). The subsequent violent destruction of the religious centre and its use as a refuge and cattle kraal is more difficult to understand.

If it was the work of the VaNhowe the site can hardly have been part of the Mangwende heritage. This and many other questions, not least the original name of the site, must be left for the historians to answer.”

-“Excavations at Lekkerwater Ruins, Tsindi Hill, Theydon, Zimbabwe”, by Sheila Rudd

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