(follow up on "ISRAEL A MARITIME PEOPLE")
J.J. Jackson, February 2010, Zimbabwe
Who built all the ancient stone structures, and mined that great quantity of gold in Zimbabwe?
1: The most popular theory, these days, is that the Mashona people did it about six centuries ago when they were a great Empire, under a Royal Dynasty called
2: The next in popularity is the Arab theory, which sees the Emozaid Arabs as having been the miners and builders about twelve centuries ago.
3: Then we come to the ancient theory which sees it as the work of the "Phoenicians", for King Solomon, nearly three thousand years ago. It was the most popular theory at first.
4: The most ancient theory is that it was all the work of the Egyptians, about three and a half thousand years ago.
While a great amount of research has been done, with integrity, certain factors have influenced media promotion of, and therefore the popularity of, the different theories. The first one has a present day popular political impact, while the third one suffers because of an aversion to matters Biblical.
An important key to understanding the later background scene is to have a grasp of the history of the Arabs who came to this region. J.E.Mullan, of missionary background, published a book in 1969. He had had close contact with certain tribes, which had certain traditions. And that prompted him to do further research. He very thoroughly researched the histories of all the tribes that had impacted upon what is now Zimbabwe. He also intensively studied Arab writings pertaining to the period, as well as some Portuguese writings, and consulted all the relevant writings by European authors.
The well confirmed background, from which he drew his conclusions, is set out as follows: The first inhabitants of Africa, south of the Zambezi, were the Bushmen, followed by the Hottentots. They were collectively called the San people. Then, about 700 AD there was a big influx of Arabs. They were Suni Arabs, also called Emozaid Arabs, from the Yemen, and Oman, who fled religious persecution, across the sea to East Africa, and were viciously pursued southwards until they ended up in what is now Mozambique. There they settled, and spread into Zimbabwe, and the adjacent part of Northern Transvaal. So this whole area became occupied by Arabs for the centuries that followed.
The first Bantu Africans to cross the Zambezi arrived about 900 AD, and they were followed by other tribes, either in pursuit, or in flight, to finally settle in South Africa. The first Mashona (Monomotapa) Africans settled astride the Zambezi after 1200AD. The Portuguese first landed at Sofala in 1505, and Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape in 1652.
What happened to these refugee Arabs during this time, and to the present? They firstly made their headquarters on the Zambezi, and named the place Sana , after their capitol in Yemen. The name has since changed to Sena. Their first two centuries were among the San people, who, it would appear, were subservient to them. The next three centuries were less tranquil among warring Bantu tribes, some friendly, and some hostile.
When Monomotapa encroached, it meant three centuries of recurrent hostilities on the northern front, and Monomotapa failed to conquer the southern half of
Zimbabwe . Then the Portuguese arrived. They at first clashed with Monomotapa, and then bolstered him, providing a Portuguese bodyguard for the king. That made things more difficult for the Arab state, and the whole region was full of conflicts.
Then, about 1700, the powerful Rozwis completely destroyed the coherence of both Monomotapa, and the Arabs, and drove back the Portuguese. On to this
scene, just more than a century later, the Matabele, a break away from Zululand, arrived, driving out the Rozwi, and settling the western half of Zimbabwe .Hard on their heels the first European explorers and ivory hunters came, soon to be followed by the Pioneer settlers in 1890.
The Arabs, who by now have resided in this region for thirteen centuries, slowly turned black, acquired African features, and adopted the African languages. Mullan
recognized their remaining, scattered, communities by their Moslem culture, and their veneration of the names of their leaders, Suleiman and Saidi, who originally
brought them from the Yemen. These people are called the Balemba in Northern Transvaal, and the Varemba, and Vamwenye, in Zimbabwe. A decade ago Professor Wilkins of Witwatersrand University proved Mullan correct when he did DNA.tests and found a Semitic factor on the Y chromosomes of these people, which the other tribes did not have. I had the great privilege of meeting the good Professor
Mullan's book, I think, was a masterpiece of ethnology, but his conclusion, as expressed in its title,"THE ARAB BUILDER'S OF ZIMBABWE," needs to be examined. His strongest point is the C14 dating (702 AD) of wood found in the structure ofthe wall of Zimbabwe Ruins' temple. It was the extremely durable Tarnbotie wood. That dating would fit the ARAB theory perfectly assuming the wood was already dry for sometime before it was used, at the peak of their power..
There is, however much stronger evidence which is contrary to that dating. And the track record, for the accuracy of the C.14 test,.is not good enough to place such dependence upon it. Assuming the Arabs were lords of the whole region, for two centuries, with the San people as their slaves, one would expect that, with their better technology, they would have moved mountains. Such was the thinking of Mullan.
These Suni Arabs were, however in this region, as refugees. They were not a Colony of Arabia, supported by their motherland. The rest of the Arab world wanted
to kill them as heretics. And that enmity persisted even to the days of Monomotapa, who was helped by hostile Arabs of Africa against these Sunis of the south.
So, in spite of occupying such a large territory, their main motive must have been survival, rather than establishing a wealthy, independent, exporting state. By all accounts trade was limited. No doubt gold did trickle out, but certainly not in the volumes suggested by the extent of the ancient mines. That would have been hard to hide from the pens of the writers, Arab, and other.
One of the important points on which, I think, Mullan was correct, is this: He reckoned that the very extensive ancient terracing found in the mountains of the NE of
Zimbabwe was the work of these Arabs. Very similar terracing is a feature of many mountains in the Yemen, and, what is more, the Zimbabwe terracing is not so far from their capital, Sena, about 250 Km, while Great Zimbabwe is about 600 Km. away. Such terracing must have been for agriculture, for food and for survival.
When the first Europeans arrived in Zimbabwe in the late eighteen hundreds they were very curious to know about the origin of all the ruins. No Africans seemed to have the slightest knowledge on the matter, neither was there any evidence suggesting that any of them held these structures to be sacred. Some even said they were built by the Devil. Those questioned must have included descendants of the Arabs.
The answer Mullan quoted from J.M.Stuart ("The ancient goldfields of Africa") which came from the Balembas, was this: "the gold was worked, and the forts built by the white men that once occupied this country, whom they call Aberlornba (men who made everything)." Mullan uses the fact that the term "varungu" and its variants, which is always applied to Europeans, was also applied to the Arabs and their descendants. And so he looks upon them as the buiilders.If that was the case then surely they would have used the words, "we", or "us", in their answer, instead of "white men that,once occupied this country." This latter phrase reminds one too strongly of the "white men" traditions held by ancient Americans.
Mullan confirms that Sofala was occupied by these Suni Arabs (Moors). Portuguese records tell us that these Arabs told them the story of the gold, the ancient ruins, King Solomon, and the Queen of Sheba. Thomas Lopez, clerk of da Gama's fleet, was the first to record it. That was in 1502. Other Portuguese authors, of whom the most prominent was de Barros, whom they called "the Portuguese Pliny," confirmed the story as an established belief of the Arabs. At the time of this statement these Arabs had already been in the region for eight centuries. That means that when they first came, the ruins must have already been ancient. The author, B.G.Paver, who recorded this in his book "Zimbabwe Cavalcade", adds: "This is clear from all the available Portuguese records." That must be stronger evidence than C 14.
Those Arabs would surely not have spoken that way if their own ancestors had done the building six centuries earlier, and still less so if Monomotapa had only recently been responsible for the project. To accept the first or second theory one would have to disbelieve these Portuguese reports, while to accept the ancient
theory one would have to discount the C 14 test.
Mullan confirmed that the Arabs called Mt. Darwin ''Afur'', and that it was in the heart of the richest gold fields, and that Zimbabwe was regularly called "The
land of gold" by different people. But Mullan did not succumb to the temptation of making the connection with the Biblical OPHIR, pronounced "Ofur", which
place was mentioned eleven times in Scripture, and every time in connection with gold.
Bent, the first archaeologist to visit the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, discovered in the Acropolis, a soapstone ingot, into which smelted gold had been poured. He recognized in its unusual shape, its "Phoenician" connection with similar ingots used in Cornwall tin mines, and on the Island of Cyprus. However, the abundance of relics of much later dates, from many different places, clouded the picture, though they only tell us of occupation, not of origin.
J.Theodore Bent (who wrote-"The ruined cities of Mashonaland") also found there an unusual, interesting, intricate soapstone "rosette cylinder", which he matched with a very similar one found in Cyprus. This strenghened his belief in a "Phoenician" connection. The soapstone birds, that adorned the Acropolis walls, resulted in a great amount of speculation. Here Bent also mentioned a possible "Phoenician" connection. Knowing more about the "Phoenicians" now, as the sea faring tribes of Israel, we know that the leading tribe was Dan, and we know that the standard of Dan was an Eagle, and at other times a serpent. The Zimbabwe birds are described as hawks, or vultures, but to me they look more like eagles.
THE ANCIENT SCENE:
It may be well now to try to picture Zimbabwe at the peak of the gold mining, stone building time. Some seventy thousand ancient diggings scar the surface of the whole country. And there is a network of about five hundred ruins, almost all within the borders of the present Zimbabwe. This represents something enormous, hardly the work of refugee people, but more like the work of a nation with strong overseas connections.
I had the great privilege of attending a lecture at Great Zimbabwe, addressed by Professor Van Riet Lowe, in 1952. He told us that this great network consisted of ruins of forts, one day's journey apart, and situated so that they all had line of sight connections with each other, and therefore the entire complex was in communication through light signals. In the Anglo-Boer war heliographs played a crucial role, and messages could be read with the naked eye up to 80 kilometres away. If these were "Phoenicians," who could read and write, and navigate the oceans, then surely they would have had the ability to work out a code, to send light messages by mirrors.
Great Zimbabwe was the hub of the whole network, and its Acropolis the main maximum security. And from Great Zimbabwe the line of one day interval forts led to the not so far away Sabi-Lundi junction. From there the great Sabi River used to be navigable to the sea. And at that junction, to this day, it is reported, there is evidence of mooring rings, for mooring boats. The mouth of the Sabi must then have had a harbour. That was so long ago that I don't think there is any evidence left. I have not read of any. Perhaps the age of such a harbour would have been the measure by which to measure the age of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. You cannot separate the two. The port of Sofala may have appeared later, and is nearly a hundred kilometres north, at the mouth of another river.
The scene described above does not fit the Monomotapa theory. Mullan's research shows that at the height of their power they never had sway over the southern half of Zimbabwe, let alone have the hub of their activities there, or use the Sabi River.The Arab theory also falls apart for reasons which are now obvious.
The very ancient, Egypt theory propagated by Carl Peters was based on the find of a statuette, proven to be that of Thutmose III, near the confluence of the Mazoe River and the Zambezi. Based on that find he figured that about 1500 BC was the time of the peak of the great Zimbabwe story, and that it was all an Egyptian
As we saw, in "ISRAEL A MARITIME PEOPLE", Velikovsky, and others after him, reduced the Egyptian chronology by about five centuries, identifying Queen Hatshepsut with the Queen of Sheba, and Thutmose III with Shishak of the Bible. This gave very interesting Bible connections as well as the reason for finding that statuette where it was located. So we are left with King Solomon and his "Phoenicians", who fit the bill. What is more, it has lately come to light that the "Phoenicians" were miners, and stone builders, in many parts of the ancient world.
1: Why, if the stone buildings were erected by the "Phoenicians", do nearly all the relics, which have been found in them, belong only to the past eight centuries or so, in other words the African era? The answer is straight forward. These buildings were occupied, after the "Phoenicians'', on and off, for nearly twenty five centuries. New occupants removed old relics, or they got destroyed, especially when the buildings were used as cattle kraals. That means that one remaining "Phoenician'' relic is more significant than ten thousand recent African ones.
2: Why are there so many African skeletal remains in the ruins, very few Arab, and no "Phoenician"? We know the Arabs occupied the area for many centuries,
so the paucity of their skeletal remains cannot be taken as an indication of lack of presence. The Africans were exposed to ongoing tribal slaughter, with a lot of skeletons lying around, and shallow burials. The Arabs always buried their dead in a special way, and deep. The "Phoenician'' era, judging by the evidence, must have been civilized, and every dead body must have been given a proper burial, probably in a cemetery, away from the buildings. On top of that, there also is the matter of the additional twenty five century time lapse, to Monomotapa.
3: Why did the "Phoenicians" withdraw? King Solomon died, but then they continued under the Egyptians, starting with Thutmose III. Then about 721 BC their home base, and home ports were lost to them in one swoop by the Assyrian invasion. All their people at home were carried away into captivity. And they ceased to be the masters of the seas.
In I Kings 10:11-12 we read:
''And the navy of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophlr; brought in from Ophir a great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones. And the king made of the almug trees pillars (stair cases) for the house of the LORD, and for the king's house, harps also, and psalteries for singers; there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day. "
The gold, we have dealt with, but what were the "almug trees". This is the only occurrence of that word in the Bible. In Chronicles the same story is told using the word "algum". The original Hebrew looks like the one word is a variant of the other. Some Bibles translate it "sandal wood." While the Hebrew word translated "trees," is the standard word for trees, it also is the standard word for wood, and for timber (as it is rendered in the LXX), which constitute its most frequent use. Dr. Bullinger, of the Companion Bible, has this to say about the word "almug": Not sandal wood, because found, too, in Lebanon. Cunaeform, GIZ-KU = precious wood; and Accadian GIZ-DAN = strong wood.
From the above I think we can conclude that the navy of Hiram brought to Solomon an abundance of unique, precious, hardwood, which served those purposes listed. And that wood came from OPHIR. I am not knowledgeable on the subject, but have asked several people in the know, who assure me that hardwoods of Southern and Central Africa are unique and precious. One question troubles my mind, and that is the overland transport of such heavy material to the ships. But then the same problem would apply at the receiving end. And there are many such ancient transport puzzles.
The next item listed is "precious stones". Until recently the first to come to mind in Zimbabwe would have been emeralds, which are precious and abundant. But now diamonds have been found in what is said to be one of the richest deposits in the world. Those "Phoenicians" who so extensively mined gold in this country, did not seem to have left one acre of the land un-prospected. They would surely have found the emeralds, and the diamonds, and who knows what more. Since these words were written another great find of diamonds in this country, has just been reported.
Back To Archive Contents