History Monday: Leopard’s Kopje (CE900-1400) Part 1 – Occupation

This new series of History Monday will look at the major events in Zimbabwean History. Some topics will sound familiar. But as the saying goes: There is always more to be found by exploring the same subject again and again!

Leopard’s Kopje is an archaeological site that is located 2km north-east of Khami World Heritage and 24km west of Bulawayo. This site has been dated to the Middle Iron Age and spans an area of 150 by 200 yards. The Leopard’s Kopje culture is said to have been widely distributed from west-central zimbabwe to North-eastern Botswana and adjacent Northern South Africa. It is also said to have influenced Great Zimbabwe and other sites such as Taba Zika Mambo.

The history of Leopard’s Kopje is said to have three phases of occupation that had different characteristics according to excavations made in 1969 by Thomas Huffman and K Robinson. These phases are Zhizo, Mambo and Refuge phases.

The site’s earliest settlement was in the 9th Century (Zhizo Phase). Excavation found evidence of manure that indicated that the occupants kept goats and sheep. Also found were pottery, glass, shell beads, copper bangles, daga rubble and iron slag.

The Mambo phase is said to date between the 10th and 11th Century. Excavations found cattle teeth in trenches. An infant burial site was also found. Exacavations also found hut floors and plastered courtyards. These gave excavators a sense of the layout of the encampment.

The Refuge Phase was the occupation of the area in the 18th and 19th Century. This was the last phase of occupation. During the excavation, archaeologists found  zebra teeth, freshwater mussel shells and turtle shells.

Next Monday we will look at the  various characteristics found at Leopard’s Kopje


Photo Credit: Photographing with Kathy Adams Clark


1. Chirikure, S; Manyanga, M; Pollard, A; Bandama, F; Mahachi, G and Pikirayi, I. (2014) Zimbabwe culture before Mapungubwe: New evidence from Mapela Hill, South-Western Zimbabwe, PLoS One, 9 (10), e111224

2. Huffman, T. (1971) Excavations at Leopard’s Kopje Main Kraal: A Preliminary Report. The South African Archaeological Bulletin, 26 (101/102). pp85-89

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