Archaeological Excavation at Mgungundlovu

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Artefacts dating to King Dingane’s reign in the mid 19th century have been unearthed in an archaeological dig at the Zulu king’s former royal residence at uMgungundlovu.

The dig was undertaken by Amafa to locate the outer palisade of the immense oval-shaped residence of about 1 500 beehive-shaped grass-covered dwellings enclosing a open area where the king inspected his army and nguni cattle. There was an outer timber palisade - and an inner one to contain cattle. 

The site is 30kms from Ulundi, off the road between Melmoth and Vryheid and in the heart of the eMakhosini Valley where many Zulu kings lie buried. It is adjacent to the R25 million multi-media centre being built to showcase four centuries of Zulu history - and act as a place of reconciliation. 

It was here on February 4 1838 that King Dingane ordered the slaying of Trekker leader Piet Retief and his party. They are buried on kwaMatiwane, the Hill of Execution, near the homestead, where there is a memorial. 

After the ensuing Battle of Blood River when the Zulus were defeated by the Boers, Dingane left his residence, ordering it to be burned. 

An archaeological dig during the 1970s exposed circular fire-baked mud-and-dung floors, and some dwellings have been reconstructed including the king’s personal one. 

The latest dig has revealed other items of historical interest. These are an iron spearhead and coloured glass beads dating to King Dingane’s occupation. Piles of charcoal also found relate to the torching of the thatched dwellings and palisades. 

“Now that we are aware of the extent of the king’s residence, the other perimeter will be planted with indigenous aloes which will make a spectacular ring of colour during winter,” said Amafa CEO Barry Marshall.

“Foundations for the multi-media centre have been completed and it is due to open early next year. It is intended as the departure point for visits to the cultural, historical and natural attractions of the 30 000 ha eMakhosini Opathe Heritage Park.”