History Monday: Matobo Hills Part 2

The Matobo Hills feature the oldest rock paintings in the world

Forty thousand years ago the caves and crevices carved out of these rocks became home to Zimbabwe’s earliest inhabitants, the “San”. Twenty thousand years later “San” artists began painting on the walls of caves and rock shelters, using special pigments and natural minerals that have survived the onslaught of climate and time. Much of the country’s history has been written and played out within the confines of the Matobo Hills – from the time thousands of years ago when ancient bushmen used the granite faces as a canvas for their unique and extraordinary art, to more recent times, when black and white met in war and peace.

Lying south of Bulawayo, the Matobo Hills or Matopos consist of a broken and ancient, rocky landscape with a unique natural and social heritage. It has one of the highest concentrations of prehistoric rock paintings in Southern Africa, while the hills are still a focus for local community shrines and sacred places. It is the home of the regional oracular cult of the High God, Mwari(Chishona) or Mlimo (siNdebele), whose voice is said to be heard from the rocks.

The Matobo Hills feature in many of the important historical events that have shaped the modern nation of Zimbabwe. There are battle sites, graves, ruins and relics that date back thousands of years through to recent events. As such this cultural landscape is one of the most important in the country; it captures the soul of the nation.

Many caves contain superb galleries of Bushman paintings, one of which is Bambata, located no more than 10km from Big Cave Camp. Other Bushman paintings may be seen on the private wilderness in secluded caves and rock shelters. Today the Matobo Hills are a place of peace; however this area is still held in reverential awe by local communities and ceremonies continue to be performed to assist in the making of rain.



Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe

Matobo Hills World Heritage Site

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