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date: 25 November 2020

The Archaeology of Khami and the Butua Statelocked

  • Tawanda MukwendeTawanda MukwendeNational Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe

Summary

The Butua state was one of the largest pre-colonial state systems, established in southern Africa in the early 15th century. The state was initially centered at Khami but the capital moved to Danamombe in the 17th century. A defining characteristic of the Butua state was its architecture, which is predominantly made up of terraced platforms built using the technology of dry-stone masonry. The state covered a large area that includes modern-day southern and south-western parts of Zimbabwe, north-east Botswana, and northern South Africa. The Butua state thrived on a number of key economic activities that included mining of various minerals, including gold, which was in high demand from Portuguese and Swahili traders on the Indian Ocean coast. Various metals were also processed to provide a range of utilitarian or ornamental objects made of gold, copper, iron, or alloys of more than one metal. Other economic pillars of the Butua state included cattle farming, agriculture, and local exchange of commodities as well as participation in global exchange networks through the Indian Ocean.

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