Lost Cities of Southern Africa

The Rise and Fall of African Civilisations

African Cities - Lost, Plundered, Burnt, Looted

100 African Cities Destroyed By Europeans: WHY there are seldom historical buildings and monuments in sub-Saharan Africa!


When tourists visit sub-Saharan Africa, they often wonder “Why there are no historical buildings or monuments?”

The reason is simple. Europeans have destroyed most of them. We have only left drawings and descriptions by travelers who have visited the places before the destructions. In some places, ruins are still visible. Many cities have been abandoned into ruin when Europeans brought exotic diseases (smallpox and influenza) which started spreading and killing people. The ruins of those cities are still hidden. In fact the biggest part of Africa history is still under the ground.

In this post, I’ll share pieces of informations about Africa before the arrival of Europeans, the destroyed cities and lessons we could learn as africans for the future.

The collection work of facts regarding the state of african cities before their destruction is done by Robin Walker, a distinguished panafricanist and historian who has written the book ‘When We Ruled’. all quotes and excerpts below are from the book. I highly recommend you to buy the book to get a full account of the beauty of the continent before it’s destruction.

For detailed information on above, visit:

Cities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Lost City 1: Mapungubwe: 800 AD to 1300 AD

This hill in Mapungubwe National Park is reputed to have inspired Gerard Moerdijk, the architect who designed the Voortrekker monument in Voortrekkerhoogte in Pretoria. Gerard Moerdijk wanted to design a "monument that would stand a thousand years to describe the history and the meaning of the Great Trek to its descendants, the Afrikaners". It is no wonder that our forefathers selected this exquisite site to build the first African Kingdom in the Southern Hemisphere.
The site was kept secret for many years by the White South African Regime as it provided evidence contrary to the racist ideology of black inferiority underpinning apartheid. What Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe both prove is that complex societies existed in southern Africa long before the Europeans arrived at the Cape in 1652

Mapungubwe: (ca. 1050–1270)

One thousand years ago, Mapungubwe in Limpopo province was the centre of the largest kingdom in the subcontinent, where a highly sophisticated people traded gold and ivory with China, India and Egypt.


From around 950 to 1300 Mapungubwe ("place of the jakkal") was the centre of a powerful kingdom and civilisation and the most significant high-culture south of the Sahara. The ancient city of Mapungubwe is an Iron Age archaeological site in the Limpopo Province on the border between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, 75 km from Messina. Mapungubwe flourished between 1050 and 1270 AD. It lies at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers and marks the centre of a pre-Shona kingdom which covered parts of modern-day Botswana and Zimbabwe and was the biggest kingdom on the African sub-continent.


Considered by some as the capital of southern Africa's first state, Mapungubwe may have reached a population of 9,000. The city grew in part because of its access to the Limpopo River, which connected the region through trade to the ports of Kilwa and other sites along the Indian Ocean. This new trade was grafted onto existing regional networks along which salt, cattle, fish, metals, chert, ostrich-eggshell beads, and other items had been flowing for centuries. New prestige items, including glass beads and cloth, were introduced through the Swahili trade and were likely exchanged for gold, ivory, and other locally produced goods. Life in Mapungubwe was centred around family and farming. Special sites were created for initiation ceremonies, household activities and other social functions. Cattle lived in kraals located close to the residents' houses, which signifies their value.


The city grew in part because of its access to the Limpopo River, which connected the region through trade to the ports of Kilwa and other sites along the Indian Ocean. Commerce grew with existing regional networks where salt, cattle, fish, metals, ostrich-eggshell beads and other items had been traded for centuries. New prestige items, including glass beads and cloth, were introduced through the Swahili trade and were likely exchanged for gold, ivory, and other locally produced goods.


“They cultivated a variety of crops such as millet, sorghum and possibly even cotton. They owned livestock and were well versed in the art of smelting iron, copper and gold, shaping the metal into both practical implements and decorative jewellery.” Their attraction of gold, as well as ivory, rhino horn and animal hides led to the creation of an increasingly extensive trading network with Arab merchants plying the east coast of Africa (centuries before Portuguese traders arrived). It is possible that some of the traders’ Eastern culture was assimilated by the local communities, contributing to the social structures displayed by the Mapungubwe civilisation.



I n 1932, ESJ Van Graan (a local farmer) , his son and three friends made their way up the steep slope of Mapungubwe Hill. “What they found on the summit exceeded their wildest expectations; remnants of an ancient civilisation scattered everywhere: clay pots, iron tools, porcelain shards, glass beads – and lots of gold artfacts , including some burial sites of kings richly adorned with jewellery made from ivory, gold and copper as well as porcelain and glass pearls. Subsequently an entire palace was discovered. A large amount of artefacts from from the royal family have been discovered at Mapungubwe. The best known of these objects is the golden rhinoceros


They vowed to remain silent about their find, but Van Graan’s son, Jerry, broke his silence soon after. Had he heard about Mapungubwe’s curse? More likely, having studied at the University of Pretoria, he realised the significance of the discovery. He sent some examples of the treasure to a former lecturer, Professor Leo Fouché, and the rest is history. The university embarked on an archaeological dig that has continued, almost uninterrupted, for 70 years. Archaeologists soon found compelling evidence of an advanced civilisation with a social hierarchy unlike any other on the Southern African subcontinent.


Scholars believe that the climate in the area changed drastically and saw the area becoming colder and drier, which made it much harder to grow crops and feed animals. Around the 1400’s, all citizens of the kingdom left and all that remained were palaces and the settlements around them.

Mapungubwe was declared a World Heritage Site because it shows proof of the changes in human values between 900 AD and 1300. These changes led to great cultural and social changes in Southern Africa. It also shows the growth and death of the nation of Mapungubwe and its power as a trading civilisation. Mapungubwe traded with Arabia and India through East African ports.

The ruins of the cities and their settlements show how a change in the climate can influence a civilisation and clearly show how unstoppable change can force the death of a state. The archaeological site of Mapungubwe is now as National Park. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003 and opened in 2004 as Mapungubwe National Park, one of SANParks youngest in its portfolio.


The Mapungubwe rhinoceros.

The exquisite golden rhino, some 12cm in length and 6cm in height and made of gold foil nailed around a wooden interior, was excavated at the site in 1933. The rhino has delicately formed ears, horn and upright tail (found in fragmented form and restored by the British Museum).

Lost City 2: Zimbabwe Ruins: 1100 - 1450 AD

The largest ancient structure South of the Sahara and second only to the Pyramids of Egypt in size and grandeur

The word Zimbabwe literally means "stone dwelling" in the Shona language. Thus, Great Zimbabwe is appropriately named because it is indeed a great stone dwelling!

Great Zimbabwe is a ruined city that was once the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, which existed from 1100 to 1450 AD during the country’s Late Iron Age. The monument, which first began to be constructed in the 11th century and which continued to be built until the 14th century, spanned an area of 722 hectares (1,784 acres) and at its peak could have housed up to 18,000 people. Great Zimbabwe acted as a royal palace for the Zimbabwean monarch and would have been used as the seat of their political power. One of its most prominent features were its walls, some of which were over five metres high and which were constructed without mortar.

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins (sometimes just called Great Zimbabwe) are sub-Saharan Africa's most important and largest stone ruins. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1986, the large towers and structures were built out of millions of stones balanced perfectly on top of one another without the aid of mortar. Great Zimbabwe gave modern Zimbabwe its name as well as its national emblem -- an eagle carved stylishly out of soapstone which was found at the ruins.


The Rise of Great Zimbabwe:

The Great Zimbabwe society is believed to have become increasingly influential during the 11th Century. The Swahili, the Portuguese and Arabs who were sailing down the Mozambique coast began trading porcelain, cloth and glass with the Great Zimbabwe people in return for gold and ivory. As the Great Zimbabwe people flourished, they built an empire whose huge stone buildings which would eventually spread over 200 square miles (500 km2). It is thought that as many as 18,000 people lived here during its heyday.


The Fall of Great Zimbabwe:

By the 15th Century, Great Zimbabwe was in decline due to over population, disease and political discord. By the time the Portuguese arrived in search of rumored cities built of gold, Great Zimbabwe had already fallen into ruin.


Recent History of Great Zimbabwe:

During colonial times when white supremacy was in vogue, many believed that Great Zimbabwe couldn't possibly have been built by black Africans. Theories were bandied around, some believed that Great Zimbabwe was built by Phoenicians or Arabs. Others believed white-settlers must have built the structures. It wasn't until 1929 that archaeologist Gertrude Caton-Thompson categorically proved that Great Zimbabwe was built by black-Africans.

Nowadays, various tribes in the region claim that Great Zimbabwe was built by their ancestors. Archaeologists generally agree that the Lemba tribe is most likely responsible.






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Truth Seeker | Reply 05.07.2017 22.17

This is about the most craziest, piece of garbage I've read in my life!! Dude you need to start taking your medication and avoid getting education from Youtube!

NeilexTranskei | Reply 27.03.2015 12.25

Tradition and traditional leaders = people power Politicians = political power of the few who ignore tradition. They are not the same. Did anything change?

NeilexTranskei | Reply 27.03.2015 12.22

African traditional heritage is outside of politics yet has a HUGE following - so why aren't your traditional leaders demanding ANSWERS from politicians?

NeilexTranskei | Reply 27.03.2015 12.10

Lies are told to GAIN something DISHONESTLY to the advantage of others. Don't believe - demand PROOF before you act otherwise YOU contribute to the chaos.

NeilexTranskei | Reply 27.03.2015 12.07

'POPULAR' action and 'CORRECT and MORAL' action are not the same thing. If you vote based on racial lines, the trap is already waiting for you. Welcome!

NeilexTranskei | Reply 27.03.2015 11.59

African and white tribal tradition must be remembered but we MUST look forward in time, not backward. We create a peaceful future based on TODAY, not yesterday

NeilexTranskei | Reply 27.03.2015 11.55

Blacks and whites born away from ancestral homes for hundreds of years CANNOT go home as they don't know where that home is. Their NEW home is where they are.

NeilexTranskei | Reply 27.03.2015 11.52

Whites in South Africa have been there for hundreds of years and are (now) as AFRICAN as the Africans - because AFRICAN is a political name, not a racial one.

NeilexTranskei | Reply 27.03.2015 11.50

Blacks in Europe have been there for hundreds of years and are (now) as EUROPEAN as the whites - because EUROPEAN is a political name, not a racial one.

NeilexTranskei | Reply 27.03.2015 11.26

African and white tribes are 'traditional' but the Republic is a POLITICAL creation based on money. Get all leaders to open their bank acounts for examination.

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