Website Category: Ancient sub-Saharan Civilisations
Criteria: (iii) cultural tradition (iv) icon of an era
Location and Values: The Khami Ruins are located on the west bank of the Khami river, about 10 km west of Bulawayo in southern Zimbabwe. The site represents all that remains of the capital of one of southern Africa’s great empires, which was at its peak from 1450-1650. In its day, the population of Khami would have lived in mud-built huts surrounded by a series of granite walls, similar to constructions during the later stages of development at Great Zimbabwe, 250 km to the east.
The ruins are nowhere near as well preserved as Great Zimbabwe, but the foundations of the chief’s residence (mambo) are clearly visible at the northern end of the site. Archaeological finds include 16th century Rhineland stoneware, Ming porcelain pieces which date back to the reign of Wan-Li (1573-1691), Portuguese imitations of 17th-century Chinese porcelain, 17th-century Spanish silverware etc. These indicate that Khami was a major centre of trade, presumably linked (like Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe before it) to the Swahili ports on the East Africa coast.
Slideshow of the Khami Ruins National Monument:
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the Khami Ruins 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. You can get a reasonable idea of what remains at the site from this kind of ‘bird’s eye view’, so it is worth taking a few minutes to explore the area.