African Archaeological Review

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 163–185 | Cite as

Palaces, Feiras and Prazos: An Historical Archaeological Perspective of African–Portuguese Contact in Northern Zimbabwe

  • Innocent PikirayiEmail author
Original Article


The consequences of the contact between Africans and Europeans during the early Atlantic Age are examined with a specific focus on the Mutapa State in northern Zimbabwe to the middle of the seventeenth century. The dynamics of contact are presented in terms of three categories of archaeological evidence, namely royal palaces (zimbabwe), trading markets (feiras) and fortifications. It is argued that some royal palaces assumed new identities as they adjusted to the new contact situations presented by the commerce with the Portuguese. The site reported in Portuguese documents as Massapa was one such palace initially, before becoming a fully fledged trading centre. With the intensification of market trade, the fortified stonewalled settlements found in the areas between the Mazowe and Ruya rivers attest to evidence for the conflict between the Mutapa state and the Portuguese, as presented in the written records, and environmental deterioration triggered by intensified exploitation of gold.


Feiras Zimbabwe Prazos Fortifications Contact 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and ArchaeologyUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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