Website Category: Traditional Cultural Landscapes
Area: 2,050 km2
Criteria: (iii) cultural tradition (v) interaction with the environment (vi) association with belief system
Location and Values: The Matobo Hills cultural landscape is located in southern Zimbabwe, to the southwest of Bulawayo, where much of the area is now protected within the Rhodes Matopos National Park. It is an extensive area of rolling hills on the high plateau, where massive granite outcrops and boulders form spectacular inselbergs and kopjes. People have found shelter in these rocky places since time immemorial, leaving a legacy of rock art that is thought to date back as long as 13,000 years. The oldest rock art (in red ochre) was left by early Stone Age hunter gatherer societies, and the rock art tradition has been continued by later agrarian Iron Age people (using white kaolin-based pigments). The area has also been at the centre of development of a wide-ranging oracular cult of the High God, Mwari, whose voice is believed to be heard from the rocks. This powerful oracle links the indigenous communities to the hills where the ancestral spirits live in sacred forests, mountains, caves, hollow trees and pools. Certain areas within the landscape remain sacred to local people and are maintained as shrines.
Slideshow of the Matobo Hills: This relatively short slideshow (21 photos, mostly contributed by David Coulson of the Trust for African Rock Art) shows the landscape, with its kopjes and rock shelters, as well as close-up views of some rock art. Older art in red ochre is illustrated, together with one frieze of art where more recent kaolin-based white images are super-imposed on older works. A couple of photos show the grave of Cecil John Rhodes, the British colonial pioneer who is buried amongst the granite boulders of Matobo.
Slideshow of the Matobo Hills:
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the general area of Matobo Hills on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.