Less Implict Historical Archaeologies: Oral Traditions and Later Karanga Settlement in South-Central Zimbabwe

  • Innocent Pikirayi
Part of the Contributions to Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


It is possible to argue that historical archaeology in Zimbabwe is essentially the archaeology of the spread of European culture into the region and the impact this had on the indigenous Karanga, Rozvi, Manyika and other groups (for examples, see Garlake 1967; 1969; Whitty 1959), since European texts have been available from the beginning of the sixteenth century. This, however, offers only a limited perspective on the discipline since the area covered by the Portuguese, who arrived on the Zimbabwe Plateau just after 1500, is confined to the northern, and eastern Plateau and the adjacent lowlands. Besides which, following the expulsion of the Portuguese from the northern Plateau areas at the end of the seventeenth century, there are no written sources directly referring to events in Zimbabwe until the second half of the nineteenth century when British missionaries, concession seekers, hunters and traders arrived from south of the Limpopo River. Thus the spread of European culture and institutions was limited to the northern and south-western sections of the Plateau, leaving the rest largely unaffected, but no less historical. Although recent studies have shown that one can focus on European expansion and colonisation, domination and resistance as well as the economic and political forms generated by African-European contact (Pikirayi 1993; 1997), there are serious research problems which arise from studying the various indigenous communities who lived in areas not covered by early and even later European observers. It is in these areas that the use of non-European documentary evidence, especially oral traditions, helps the archaeologist to understand, for example, the processes connected with the retreat from socio-political complexity on the Zimbabwe Plateau. By this I mean that without such information, it is difficult to understand the decline of the Zimbabwe Culture — a culture system that subsumes at least five if not six, states (Mapungubwe, 1050–1270; Great Zimbabwe, 1280 – 1550; Torwa, 1450–1680; Mutapa, 1450–1900; Rozvi, 1680–1830).


Archaeological Site Seventeenth Century Historical Archaeology Oral Tradition Stone Walling 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Innocent Pikirayi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of ZimbabweZimbabwe

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