The next morning it was another early start, back to Mapungubwe NP. This time to visit Jackal Hill a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here in the 9th century Iron Age, the first known Bantu settlement was established in South Africa. Over time Mapungubwe developed into the largest kingdom in the sub continent before it was abandoned in the 14th century.
After a 20 minute drive in the parks Canter and a bush walk with an armed guard we reached Jackal hill. At the base of the hill was a covered archaeological dig. This showed the different layers of the settlement of the Bantu people. Artifacts such as pottery, iron arrows, glass and gold beads were excavated. The glass beads were thought to be traded with China. Also found were artifacts from India and Persia . It seems that this had been a great trading kingdom.There were also bone fragments of domestic animals and charcoal layers were the huts had been burned down at various periods of the sites occupation.
It is thought that the whilst the royal family lived on top of the hill the king’s brother and relatives resided on the plain at the base. They were there to protect the king and vet any people who wished to see him.
The route up to the top of Jackal Mountain was via 146 steps. Some are stone and then clinging steeply to the sheer cliff face are wooden steps. In the cliff face are chiseled holes which are thought to be where tree branches were placed to provide a ladder to the top. These could then be removed to protect the summit. The summit was rocky and bare. The women carried the soil and water up the rock face. On the rocks surface were post holes and circular grooves which were the bases of the huts. There were huge holes which were grain and water storage pits. Also there were mortar stones for grinding corn. Once again, like at the rock paintings, a flat rock had a series of hollows carved into it which was thought to be for a game.
Accompanying the king on the summit was his wife and a male companion. The companion was thought to be killed if the king died to accompany him in the afterlife. During the archaeological dig burial sites were discovered. One faced west and held both the king and queen in seated position with artifacts surrounding them, and another male in a curled position. It was here that the golden rhino, the golden sceptre and bowl were found buried.
From the summit there were fabulous view of the surrounding plain and a diorite dyke. As we gazed down a Black Eagle flew leisurely across the trees. After spending an hour on the top and with the temperature rising it was time to head back. On the way down a Mocking Chat was calling loudly. At the bottom in an acacia tree White-browed Sparrow Weavers were feeding young in their untidy nests.
It was time to go back to the lodge for lunch before our final game drive because we were moving on in the morning. After a restful afternoon we were back on the track driving through groups of Impala, Zebra and Wildebeest. Amongst the scrub Giraffes stood tall with Oxpeckers busy on their long necks. A male Kudu hid in the bushes and a family of Warthog ran for cover with their tails held high. A lone Oryx stood silently watching and distant Elephants were throwing up dust.
We stopped and got out of the vehicles to take a tree top walk along the shore of the Limpopo River. Blacksmith’s Plover pecked at the ground near the entrance. Grey and Purple Heron stood along the banks and a group of Egyptian Geese waded in the mud. In a tree a White Breasted Bee Eater looked beautiful in the sunlight. Further a long the walkway a Red Billed Wood Hoopoe looked down at us from a branch and Vervet Monkeys noisily swung from branch to branch.
Leaving the Tree Top Walk we went to have our sundowners on a viewing platform above the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers. Botswana and Zimbabwe were clearly visible and below us elephants wandered through the grass. It was a beautiful view as the sun set on our last day at Mapungubwe. Then it was time to return to the lodge, pack and get ready because tomorrow it was on to Karongwe.