Friday, March 25, 2016: Domboshava Petroglyphs

In the mid-afternoon the group left Harare for the archeological site at Domboshava, about 20 miles from the city. Domboshava, meaning red rock in Shona, is the name given to an exfoliated igneous dome that takes the shape of a slightly concave hill northeast of the town with the same name.  Next to the hill was a former sacred forest known as “Ndambakurima” which means “land that refused to be cultivated.” The area was inhabited by San hunter gatherers more than 6,000 years ago who left their mark in the form of rock paintings on Domboshava and numerous other sites around Zimbabwe. The San were driven out by Bantu migrants after the first millennium. The San were given the derogatory name “bushmen” by European settlers in South Africa in the late 1700s.

A shallow cave near top of Domboshava, protected by an overhanging ledge of rock was the main attraction because of its petroglyphs. There were drawings of animals which were painted using animal blood, charcoal, and plant resins. It was speculated that the scenes depicted either past hunting scenes or were a part of rituals to ensure the success of future hunts. The paintings had been damaged before the area was protected. We learned that after the San were driven away the cave was a sacred site for the Shona people, where the smoke from a black goat was sent through the cavity that runs from the cave to the top of the Domboshava dome as part of rain rituals which are no longer practiced. The view from the top of Domboshava was stunning with the setting sun, the distant granite hill of Ngomakurira visible in the distance, bronzed fields, villages and kopjes surrounding the hill, and groups of fellow hikers enjoying the sunset. The wonderful scene masked the mixed fortunes of those who lived in the surrounding rural countryside.


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