The Matobo hills are rich in history and tradition, with some saying they are haunted by the souls of long-dead Ndebele chiefs. Large caves in the hills, such as Bambata, Nswatugi, and Silozwane, have Khoekhoe paintings. There are also Stone Age and Iron Age historical sites. The name may have come from matombe or madombe, which mean “the rocks,” or matobo, which means “bald heads.”
Matobo National Park
Matobo, also called Matopos or Matobo Hills, is a stretch of granite hills southeast of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. River erosion has shaped the hills into amazing designs and deep valleys. The Matobo hills reach an average height of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), cover an area of about 1,200 square miles (3,100 square kilometers), and stretch 50 miles (80 km) from east to west.
They get enough water from the Limpopo River and its tributaries, which have dams built on them for irrigation, leisure, and water supply. The plants range from lichens on the tops of hills in the desert to lush greens in the valley marshes. Animals that live there include insects, birds, lizards, monkeys, baboons, antelopes, and lions. In 1902, the Rhodes Matopos National Park was a private farm.
Matopos National Park
It had land that was rented out to individual farmers or the government for farming and ranching. It also had a big experimental farm and a game park. Matobo National Park is about 5.8 kilometers north of Bulawayo. The national park is 106,750 acres (43,200 hectares) big and has a beautiful hill called View of the World Hill, or Malindidzimu. Cecil Rhodes and other important people are buried there. Since 2003, Matobo Hills have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Matobo Hills Cave Paintings
In Zimbabwe’s Matobo Hills, there are as many as 3,000 places with rock art. Paintings are often found in rock caves, where they are linked to other artifacts. Most of the pictures are of people, with more men than women and almost no children. In the rock art of the Matobo Hills, there are many different kinds of animals and people. In the park, you can see kudu antelopes, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, monkeys, eland antelopes, rhinoceroses, and many other animals.
People and animals often hunt together. Mozambique’s Matobo Hills area has a lot of different colors in its rock art. These colors include red, purple, orange, brown, and yellow. Some animal parts are filled in with a different color than the red or white lines that outline them. Many of the pictures show hunter-gatherers, and they tell us a lot about what they did every day.
The rock art shows daily things like bows, jugs, digging poles, and cloaks, as well as people hunting animals, fighting other groups, and dancing in what look like rituals. Zimbabwean rain paintings are easily connected to trance or rain-making practices like those in the Drakensberg area of South Africa. Many of the images in Zimbabwean art come from these rituals, including “therianthropes,” which are forms that are part human and part animal; curved figures; rain animals; and geometric figures.
Rock Paintings in Matobo
Rock art from the Matobo Hills area of South Africa has been used to explain shamanistic events. But unlike South Africa, rock art in this area is not new, and academics don’t have important ethnographic records that can help them figure out what it means. The word “shaman” comes from Siberian shamanism, and it’s not clear if it applies to San or Bushman groups.
Matobo Hills History
The Matobo Hills cave paintings are thought to have been made by hunter-gatherers. Some drawings made by Iron Age farmers are from a later time. They probably moved away or became part of the new farming group. Later paintings, on the other hand, show some ties to past practices. Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe is a great example of how nature and people can live together. The fact that there are thousands of places all over the hills shows how spiritual the hunter-gatherers were. Local people still have a lot of respect for many of them.
- If you only have time to see one rock site in Matobo National Park, make it this one.
- In Zimbabwe, three classic, shaded polychrome giraffes are among the best.
- Matobo National Park’s artwork is among the most vibrantly colored.
- At the bottom of the hill, there is a site museum worth visiting.
When should I go?
Every week of the year, from Monday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Charge: Once you pay the national park fee, it’s free to get in. GPS coordinates for the parking lot are: (20⁰32′08.54″S 28⁰28′42.42″E)
How to get here:
From where you check in at the National Park, head toward Maleme Dam. At the junction 1.7 km from the dam, go left and cross the wall. Turn right at the 3.7-kilometer mark to go north. The sign says 7 kilometers, but it’s best to stop at 1.6 kilometers, where a sign on the left says “Nswatugi Cave,” and take that road instead of going the long way around to the Site Museum. With green arrows showing the way on the granite, the climb is short and easy.
Nswatugi means “jumping spot” because people say that God (Mwari or Mwali) jumped from his home on Njelele Mountain to the top of Nswatugi Hill and fell on Khalanyoni Hill. At the bottom of a steep valley is the opening to Nswatugi Cave. The entrance to the cave is about six meters wide, but it goes fourteen meters into the hillside and has colorful friezes of giraffes, elephants, and kudu.
Matobo National Park Heritage Sites Zimbabwe
Two enormous, multicolored, shaded giraffes dominate the pattern. Below them, people are sleeping in their karosses at a camp. There were six big kudus and a lot of people. Below are pictures of its characters, including a zebra, crouched people with guns, and lines of running hunters. On the right side of the border, there is a multicolored giraffe and a group of zebras. Under the main border, there is a group of orange and red ovoids with stippling and white caps.
On the far right, you can see the outline of a zebra and the head of a kudu cow. On the far left, you can see two beautiful deer. In the back of a hollow, there are two ovoids, or formlings, and a cat. At the opening to the cave, you can see the outline of a giraffe, four antelope, and the head of a sable. During the First Chimurenga, which happened in 1896, the Matabele put food in a clay granary on the floor of the cave. This granary has since fallen apart.
Neville Jones was the first person to go to the cave. Cran Cooke led the first dig there in 1933, and Nick Walker led the next one. In the upper layers, they found pottery, ironwork, and glass beads from the Iron Age. In the lower layers, they found scrapers and points from the Middle and Late Stone Ages, as well as a range of other well-made objects, which made the site a Wilton-type site.
Most likely, the oldest human bones found in Zimbabwe are from the Middle Stone Age. The artists were the hunter-gatherer ancestors of today’s San people in Botswana. They were forced to move to the more remote areas of northwestern Botswana and the Kalahari when pastoral farmers arrived with sheep, goats, and later cattle.
Negative spheroidal weathering, also called “onion skin peeling,” wore away the joints inside the granite mass of the great smooth “whalebacks,” or dwalas, to make these large caves with smooth walls. This is the exact opposite of positive spheroidal weathering, or “onion skin peeling,” which happens when the dwalas themselves are exfoliated.