Lying in the interior of tropical southern Africa are hundreds of stone ruins. The largest of them, situated near Masvingo (previously called Fort Victoria), were known in the 16th century as Symbaoe 1; later they were called the Zimbabwe Ruins. They consist of a fortress on a hill, nicknamed the Acropolis, and an elliptical “temple” now referred to as Great Zimbabwe. A dozen or so other sites were obviously satellite settlements of secondary importance2. All buildings were unroofed, and were constructed using dry-stone walling techniques, i.e. without any cement or mortar, meaning that the granite bricks had to be carefully shaped and trimmed so as to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Virtually all these structures lie within the territory formerly known as Southern Rhodesia (now renamed Zimbabwe). Brief references were made to the Zimbabwe Ruins in 16th century Portuguese writings 3. The site was visited again during the 19th century by Adam Renders, followed by other European explorers.

During the early 1900s various theories were proposed (including some rather exotic ones) as to who might have constructed those buildings. Some people favoured a northern hemisphere connection4. Others attributed them to ancestors of Shona Africans now inhabiting the area5; this Shona theory is now the one which is “officially in favour”.

Prehistoric contacts with southeast Africa

It is beyond dispute that the Indian Ocean, including much of its African coastline, has been travelled for two thousand years or more. For instance, there is a record of Phoenicians circumnavigating Africa6 in about 600 BC. Evidence that a mass migration from the East Indies to Madagascar took place many centuries ago is provided by the relationship between Malay and a main language of that island7. Arab traders were visiting Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam before the beginning of the Christian era, and around 60 AD the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (in Greek) was compiled as a guide to East African, Arab and Indian sailors. In particular, it has been argued that the “Fire Islands” mentioned there, could well have been the volcanic Comoro group8, because they are placed at the entrance to the “Channel”. The description in the Periplus continues further southwards, although names of rivers and harbours can no longer be identified with certainty.

Indeed, the winds along the Mozambique coast do tend to alternate between northeasterlies and southeasterlies – often on an almost weekly as well as on a seasonal basis – such that two-way travel there would have been extremely easy9.

The gold of ancient Zimbabwe

Many thousands of prehistoric gold-workings are scattered round the former territory of Southern Rhodesia – over an area, in fact, similar to that containing the ruins10. Some calculations indicate that more than 20 million ounces were extracted11. Exploiters of such riches tend not to disclose their source, so it is quite credible that most of it ended up in the northern hemisphere12. In fact, in the sixth century AD, Cosmas Indicopleustes of Alexandria13 referred to gold acquired by trade with southeast Africa (where “winter occurred during northern hemisphere summer”); so did Masudi and Ibn Al Wardy in the tenth century – when it was apparently being exported from an Arab trading post at Sofala (on the coast, east of the Zimbabwe Ruins: the modern resort there still carries the old name). That gold could easily have been first detected in alluvial mud at the mouth of the Zambezi river, and perhaps also in the Sabi.

Indicopleustes and Masudi both mention that it was the Abyssinians who were involved in the gold trade.

Evidence for a Semitic ancestry of the MaLemba

An African tribe in the extreme north of South Africa, the Lembas, has a tradition14 that its male ancestry originally comprised “white people from over the sea who came to southeast Africa to obtain gold”.

A few years ago, Tudor Parfitt and his colleagues at the University of London established a DNA match between the Lemba tribe and people in the Hadramaut region of the Yemen15. Particularly surprising was the discovery that members of the most senior Lemba clan displayed the Cohen Modal Haplotype, which is a distinctive feature of Jewish priesthood. Furthermore, this genetic pattern is carried by the Y-chromosome, so it is passed through the male line.

The MaLemba refuse to eat pork, rabbit, hare, carrion and scaleless fish, exactly as laid down in Leviticus chapter 11. When preparing meat for consumption, they always kill in the “kosher” manner by bleeding16. The Lembas also have a distinctive New Moon ceremony.

A number of words and clan-names used by Lembas must have had a Semitic origin17, e.g. Sadiki, Hasane, Hamisi, Haji, Bakeri, Sharifo and Saidi (which is their word for “master”). Some individuals possess aquiline noses and narrow, non-negroid lips. It must be mentioned that there are also indications of Semitic blood, although much more diluted, in Vendas, Rozwis and Karangas – implying that traces of the original Zimbabwean genetic material survive in these other (nearby) communities too.

Other tribes regard the Lembas as the originators and masters of the art of circumcision18, which is interesting because stone phallic symbols found at various Zimbabwean ruins definitely represent circumcised organs. Indeed, this is only one of many apparent links between that tribe and Zimbabwe.

Other pointers linking the Lembas with ancient Zimbabwe

Until quite recently, and unlike other Bantu communities, the MaLemba had a propensity for building in stone – in Zimbabwean style, without cement; the Dzata ruin in Vendaland is one such remnant which may still be viewed19.

In addition, Lembas are unusual amongst African Bantu in their ability for mining and metallurgy. In fact, they still provide neighbouring tribes with metal tools – using copper obtained from deposits in their area. (But – not surprisingly – even as early as the 18th century, Lemba workmanship could not match the standards displayed by the buildings and gold ornaments found at Great Zimbabwe).

Furthermore, the Lembas bury their dead in an extended position, just like the ancient Zimbabweans did – in contrast to the “crouched” posture adopted by other Bantu peoples 20.

Stone spindle whorls found at Great Zimbabwe indicate that cotton was spun and woven with far greater sophistication there, than was displayed in other regions occupied by Bantu tribes. Cotton is of course not indigenous to southern Africa, but a few (now wild) cotton trees nevertheless seem to have been planted near that ancient city. Thus, it is relevant to note that (unlike most other Bantu) Lemba men used to wear a long cotton garment, similar to those found on the East African coast21.

The old Lemba language was almost the same as the one still spoken today in the Zimbabwean province surrounding the stone “temple” and main fortress.

Thus, several scholars support the belief that the Lemba tribe constitutes a remnant of the creators of ancient Zimbabwe22.

Accomplishments: two opposing hypotheses

Civilization in ancient Zimbabwe attained a level far superior to that of other areas occupied by Bantu-speaking peoples. Some walls were ten metres high; many incorporated chevron, herring bone or chequered patterns. A set of steps leading into the main “temple” constitutes a true work of art: each course curves out of the flanking walls into the entrance, with the penetration of the curves increasing as the steps are ascended23.

The inhabitants of early Zimbabwe (whoever they might be) – were skilled water engineers, constructing dams feeding conduits and irrigation channels24. Regularly spaced terraces, which can still be viewed today, were carved into hills in the northeast of Zimbabwe25 (where rainfall is comparatively high, making this region suitable for agriculture). The ancient gold mines, too, required a measure of engineering skill, containing horizontal as well as deep vertical shafts26. Furnaces, crucibles and tools found at various sites indicate that the gold ornaments and jewellery accompanying them, were produced locally27.

Carbon-14 measurements on timber from the walls give a variety of ages; some indicate a date28 as early as 600 AD. Certainly, Portuguese accounts suggest that this Zimbabwean Civilization had already collapsed by the 15th century 29, long before the Matabele arrived in that country. But if it really was created by Shona-speaking Bantu, then it could be asked why they failed to retain their former skills and techniques. If they lost these through being conquered and totally subjugated, then where are their conquerors now?

For many centuries, the Bantu people had actually been engaged in a massive southward migration from equatorial Africa, displacing the original Cappoid (Hottentot and Bushman) population. However, linguistic criteria, skin pigmentation and blood-group comparisons indicate a relatively low absorption of Cappoid stock by Shona people, making it unlikely that they were the spearhead of that Bantu migration 30.

Comparisons between Saba and southeast Africa

Another theory attempts to link ancient Zimbabweans with Sabaeans from southern Arabia31; (eventually, the Abyssinians probably took over the gold trade). Many questions still need to be answered, but Sabaeans certainly were wealthy gold miners 32 (although it is not known where their mines were) with substantial commercial interests in East Africa, as well as elsewhere 33. They spoke a Semitic language (closely related to Arabic), and followed a Judaistic type of religion (including circumcision) from the fifth to seventh centuries AD. Like the Lembas, they lived by the Moon; (Gayre also mentions a tradition that there was once a moon dynasty in Zimbabwe 34). Furthermore, the people of Saba constructed dams to serve their terraced agriculture (in south and southwest Arabia), and built elliptical unroofed dry-stone temples at Marib and at Sirwah35.

However, male emigrants must have outnumbered females, so if there was a Sabaean colony in southeast Africa, then it probably contained native southern African as well as Semitic blood by the time it attained maturity. This may help explain why the old Lemba language was so similar to Karanga (spoken today in Masvingo province, i.e. the region containing the Zimbabwe Ruins), because children usually tend to pick up their mother’s speech first.


Five points may be highlighted for debate:

1. A number of factors appear to link the MaLemba with ancient Zimbabwe.

2. Judging by their customs and physical features, the MaLemba have much more Semitic ‘blood’ than other southern African tribes.

3. The gold trade of Zimbabwe predated (by several centuries) the arrival there of the MaShona.

4. If the MaShona built the old Zimbabwean civilization, then they would have been very different from all other southern African Bantu (apart from the MaLemba).

5. There are a few similarities between early Zimbabwe and the Sabaeans of southern Arabia – not just their temples, but also in the construction of irrigation channels, and their extensive agricultural terracing.

There is certainly sufficient doubt about the origins of the ancient Zimbabwean civilization – to justify reopening the question of who was responsible for creating it. In particular, we need to consider the possibility that the Shona conquered and absorbed the original inhabitants, and indeed learned a certain amount from them.


1. de Barros, J. – ‘Décadas da Asia’; originally composed in Lisbon, 1552. In: ‘Records of South-eastern Africa’, collected by G. McCall-Theal; Cape Colony Printers, 1900, volume VI, book 10; see page 267.
Regarding the name “Symbaoe”, it is intriguing that Ptolemy’s map of the world labels southeast Africa as “Agisymba”: see ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’ (9th edition), 1883, volume 15, plate VII.
Compare Gayre, R.** – ‘The origin of the Zimbabwean civilization’; Galaxie Press, Zimbabwe, 1972, pp. 68-69. He suggests that the original name could have been “Sinbani”, after the Sabaean Moon God. Local Bantu later may have applied this designation to the building, thereby creating a new word in their own language denoting “stone palace” or “court”.
The fact that “dzimba” carries that meaning in Shona, is often cited as proof that this particular tribe constructed the ancient civilization. However, it would be instructive to investigate how many other Bantu languages contain this root-word. Certainly, it does not occur in SiNdebele, nor in SeSotho, nor Tswana, nor ChiBemba, nor Swazi. Thus, the root “dzimba” could well be a relatively recent acquisition in Shona – derived from an alien source.
** Gayre’s book is probably obtainable from Used Book Central, or from Past Auctions: Africana, (or possibly from Dan Wyman Books in Springfield, MA, USA).

2. Gayre pp. 222-233 (i.e., Appendix I – written by Edmund Layland). Also see:
Popham, J.L.‘Notes on the N’Natali ruin’; Proceedings of the Rhodesia Scientific Association IV (1904), pp. 67-71, and plate VI;
White, F. – ‘Observations on recent discoveries at ancient ruins’; Proc. Rhodesia Sci. Assoc. IV (1903), pp. 14-20, and plates I to IV;
White, F.‘Description of Lumene ruins’; Proc. Rhodesia Sci. Assoc. V (1905), pp 5-7, and plates I and II;
Hall, R.N. – ‘Majiri ruins, Motirikoi (M’telekwe) valley’; Proc. Rhodesia Sci. Assoc. IV (1904), pp. 83-86, and plates XI and XII.

3. e.g. de Barros [my ref. 1], pp. 264-273. Cited in Gayre’s above-mentioned work, pp. 209, 215-217.
De Barros also mentions an inscription above the door of the temple, written in characters not known to the (well educated) Arab merchants who had seen it. If Parfitt’s work [my ref. 15] confirms that there was a connection with south Arabia, then that unknown script was probably Himyaritic. The existence of lettering over the entrance is also mentioned by Damião de Goes [original account in old Portuguese in McCall-Theal’s ‘Records …’, volume III, p.55 – translated into English on p.129; see reference in my note 1].
Randall-MacIver [my ref. 5; 1971 impression, p.99] tries to explain away that inscription by suggesting that the Moorish merchants were simply looking at the zigzag pattern running round the top of the wall!

4. Hall, R.N. – ‘Prehistoric Rhodesia’; Fisher Unwin, London, 1909;
Hall, R.N. & Neal, W.G.‘The ancient ruins of Rhodesia’; Methuen, London, 1902;
Bent, J.T. – ‘The ruined cities of Mashonaland’; Longmans Green, London, 1896.

5. Randall-MacIver, D. – ‘Mediaeval Rhodesia’; MacMillan, London, 1906 (new impression: Frank Cass, 1971);
Caton-Thompson, Gertrude – ‘The Zimbabwe Culture’; Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1931. Revised and reprinted as ‘The Zimbabwe Culture, Ruins and Reactions’; Frank Cass, 1971. Although Miss Caton-Thompson does favour the Bantu theory above the others, she is not dogmatic that it has been proven beyond all doubt. Even in her revised edition, she acknowledges that there are plenty of puzzles and unanswered questions.
Beach, D.‘The Shona and their neighbours’; Blackwell, Oxford, 1994. Professor Beach’s argument that this tribe built Great Zimbabwe (pages 86-87) – is that the remains of Shona-style thatched houses are found in and around its enclosure, together with typical Shona pottery. However, these could well have been put there after the MaShona conquered Zimbabwe, i.e., when the original inhabitants of that city had been partly expelled and partly absorbed. On p.106, Beach admits that there is no logical explanation why Great Zimbabwe went into decline – which he believes was when the Shona stopped occupying it. He claims that they abandoned that site just as the Portuguese were arriving on the coast – (which conflicts with de Barros’s account [my ref. 1] – i.e., that in the early 1500s the Bantu living near the temple had absolutely no idea who could have built it – instead saying that it must have been “the work of the devil”).
Compare comments by Gayre, pp. 206-207, 218, 214 (including a footnote citing Mutwa – an African writer – to the effect that Zimbabwe was built by “white men who arrived before the Arabs”).
For a detailed review and analysis of the evidence, see ‘The Mystery of the Great Zimbabwe’ by Wilfred Mallows; Robert Hale, London, 1985. No particular theory is endorsed, regarding the identity of the builders.

6. The expedition was sponsored by the Egyptian Pharaoh Neku II, and is mentioned by Herodotus of Halicarnassus in his ‘Historia’, book 4, section 42. The voyagers reported that the midday sun was on their right while they were sailing westwards (which Herodotus refused to believe) – but that would of course be a feature of the southern hemisphere.
An indication that Phoenician ships were indeed capable of that feat, is provided by Hanno’s exploration round the bulge of West Africa. There is also some evidence that they traded as far away as Cornwall in England.

7. Murdock, G.P. – ‘Africa: its peoples and their culture history’; McGraw Hill, New York, 1959, pp. 208 et seq. During and even before the “Dark Ages” in Europe, there was contact (probably with exchange of ideas and technology) between Polynesians, Malays, Malabaris, Hindus, Arabs, and Chinese. Sailing ships and their crews had certainly become quite sophisticated by 1500 (or even 2000) years ago. The Chinese had invented the magnetic compass by 200 AD – see ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’ (9th edition), 1877, volume 6, p.226; also see Gayre, pp. 20-21.

8. Peters, C. – ‘The Eldorado of the Ancients’; Pearson & Bell, London, 1902, p.316. Also see Hall (‘Prehistoric Rhodesia’), p.64.

9. Atmospheric pressure fluctuations as a cause of these wind (as well as weather) changes are discussed in Meteorological Notes, Series A nos. 11 and 40 – and Series B no. 50; Ministry of Transport and Power, Zimbabwe.
Beyond Cape dos Correntes it can become difficult to sail northwards against the Agulhas current.

10. Gayre p.182 (map).

11. Gayre pp. 49-50, 179-181 and 229 (citing Hall & Neal); Murdock p.211.

12. Certain exotic plants and trees not indigenous to southern Africa (such as jasmine, figs, lemons, and cotton) occur near ruins or mines, suggesting contact with distant countries; see Gayre pp. 52-57, 63; Hall & Neal p.116; Hall pp. 80, 196-197.
M. Horton alludes to a deliberate policy of keeping secret that southeast African gold-source, citing the Yemeni writer Al-Hamdani of 942 AD; see ‘The Swahili corridor’ in Scientific American 257 (September 1987), pp. 76-84.

13. Indicopleustes’s work ‘Topographia Christiana’ was translated by J.W. McCrindle as Hakluyt Society publication no. 98, London, 1897; see pp. 52-53 (book II). It is cited by R.A. Dart in ‘Foreign Influences of the Zimbabwe and Pre-Zimbabwe Eras’; Nada 32 (1955), pp. 19-30; Native Affairs Dept., Southern Rhodesia. It is also mentioned in Gayre’s book on p.41; cf. Murdock, p.206.
Masudi’s or Maçoudi’s account (916 AD) is contained in ‘Les Prairies d’Or’ [parallel text in Arabic and French], translated by C.B. De Maynard and P. de Courtaille; Société Asiatique, Paris, 1864; see volume 3 (chapter 33), p.6.
The early exploration of the SE African coast is discussed by Kathleen M. Kenyon in Appendix V to Gertrude Caton Thompson’s book, pp. 264-265 [ref. in my note 5]. Miss Kenyon also mentions Ibn Al Wardy (957 AD), as does Hall [my ref. 4] on pp. 69-72.

14. van Warmelo, N.J. , contributing to Hammond Tooke, W.D.‘The Bantu-speaking peoples of southern Africa’; Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1974 (originally 1937), p.83;
… and Junod, H.A. – ‘The life of a South African tribe’, volume I: ‘Social life’; MacMillan, London, 1927, p.73.
Also see Gayre’s articles mentioned in my note 16.
Professor Beach [my ref. 5] dismisses the Lemba as “Muslims of the interior” (p.161) – ignoring the fact that the Prophet Muhammed, the ‘Quran’, Ramadan and Mecca mean absolutely nothing to them.
And Miss Caton-Thompson [also in my ref. 5] does not discuss the Lemba at all – although they are acknowledged briefly in her Appendix IV (written by H. Stayt) which describes the closely associated BaVenda tribe.

15. Parfitt, T.. – ‘Journey to the vanished city’; St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1992 (also published by Phoenix). Discussed in a long article on page 22 of The Times (UK) on 10th March 1999.
Also see Thomas, M.G., Parfitt, T. et al. – ‘Y Chromosomes Traveling South: The Cohen Modal Haplotype and the Origins of the Lemba – the “Black Jews of Southern Africa”; Amer. J. Human Genetics, 66 (2000), pp. 674-686.

16. Gayre’s book [my ref. 1] pp. 126-137, 65, 199-204;
… and articles by Gayre:
‘The Lembas and Vendas of Vendaland’; The Mankind Quarterly (Edinburgh) VIII (1967), pp. 3-15;
‘Some further notes on the Lembas’; The Mankind Quarterly XI (1970), pp. 58-60.
Also see van Warmelo in note 20.

17. van Warmelo [in Hammond Tooke, my ref. 14, p.82]; Gayre pp. 135, 66, 103;
… and Mullan, J.E. – ‘The Arab builders of Zimbabwe’; published privately in Rhodesia, 1969, pp. 11-19; [this is cited by Gayre, p.163].

18. Junod [my ref. 14] pp. 72-73, 94,
… and van Warmelo, N.J. , contributing to Schapera, I. – ‘The Bantu-speaking tribes of southern Africa’; Routledge and Sons, London, 1937, and Maskew Miller, Capetown, 1966, pp. 65-66; also see pp. 153, 257, 276;
… and van Warmelo [in Hammond Tooke, my ref. 14, pp. 81-84; also see his pp. 115-116].
Gayre’s book shows a picture of a circumcised phallic object from Great Zimbabwe – see p.143.

19. Gayre pp. 200-201 (including photos).

20. Murdock p.387 (mentioning many basic differences between Lembas and other Bantu). Ancient Zimbabwean graves were identified by gold jewellery: see Hall & Neal pp. 101-106; Gayre pp. 103-104, 126, 111.
Also see van Warmelo, N.J. – ‘The copper miners of Musina and the early history of the Zoutpansberg’; Ethnological Publications VIII (1940), pp. 52-53, 63-67; Dept. of Native Affairs, South Africa. The vernacular account of the MaLemba is given by M.M. Motenda, confirming the dietary restrictions cited by Gayre [my ref. 16] in a comparison with the Mosaic Code.

21. Gayre pp. 52, 63-64; van Warmelo [in Hammond Tooke, my ref. 14, p.81].

22. References in my notes 16 (Gayre) and 7 (Murdock). For earlier speculations regarding a Lemba-Zimbabwe link, see Hall & Neal, p.126 – and R. Wessman’s ‘The BaWenda of the Spelonken’ (English translation from German); The African World, London, 1908, pp. 129-132.

23. Gayre p.56 (photo).

24. Gayre p.233 – Appendix I, by Layland, citing Randall-MacIver.

25. Hall pp. 201-205, Gayre pp. 85-87 (with photo) and 233 (where Layland reports that the ancient terraces extend over 2500 square miles).
Professor Beach [my ref. 5; see pp. 126-129] does not think these sophisticated irrigation channels and terraces were cut by the builders of the Great Zimbabwean temple. He assigns them to a completely different civilization, which he calls the “Nyanga Culture” – admitting to not knowing who created it.
However, because the elaborate stone buildings, the extensive gold mines (and ornamentation), and the agricultural terracing are all anomalies in southern Africa – surely it is reasonable to ask whether all three phenomena could have been derived from the same source?

26. Bent p.288 (cited by Gayre, pp. 179-181, with photos).

27. Gayre p.229 (citing Hall & Neal).

28. Libby, W.F. – ‘Chicago radiocarbon dates III’; Science 116 (1952), see p. 680. A piece of Spirostachys africana (tambootie wood) was found in the inner wall of the Parallel Passage in the Zimbabwe Elliptical Temple. Three estimates of its date were obtained: 540 AD ± 160 years, 610 AD ± 160 years, and 680 AD ± 260 years. They are cited and discussed by Dart, p.19, by Gayre, pp. 110-111 and 190 and by Murdock, p.210; [full references given in my notes 13, 1 and 7]. However, it is true that in a subsequent analysis those dates were apparently revised to the early 1300s [see David Beach’s ‘The Shona and Zimbabwe, 900-1850’; Heinemann, 1980, p.324]. It does seem bewildering that such a large readjustment can be produced after adopting new carbon-dating parameters and assumptions.
There is another settlement at Mapungubwe on the Limpopo, also with stone buildings and gold ornaments – evidently part of the same civilization as Great Zimbabwe. Mapungubwe has been carbon-dated to the 11th century – and this figure is accepted and cited by supporters of the “Shona” theory, including Professor Beach. In that case, the general migration of ancient Zimbabweans must have been from south to north. That direction of movement is extremely difficult to understand – regardless of whether they were African or Asian.

29. de Barros [refs. in my notes 1 and 3]; Hall pp. 40-47, 35; Gayre pp. 209-211, 216 (footnote). When the Europeans arrived, Africans were not using stone when constructing their dwellings. Furthermore, all mine shafts, irrigation channels and agricultural terraces were in disrepair and overgrown. It is true, admittedly, that the MaKaranga were washing some fluvial gold in Rhodesia, aware that it had commercial value. They were also making iron weapons, but proponents of a non-African origin for Zimbabwe argue that the Karangas could have learned such basic skills from the conquered civilization. According to ‘Chambers’s Encyclopaedia’ (ILSC, London, 1973, volume IX, p.134). Karanga ironsmiths emigrated to Zululand in the 18th century, providing technical expertise for the Zulu empire; i.e. metal-working ability seems to have been confined to just a few Bantu tribes.

30. The Bantu migration was still in process during the 18th century – meeting and confronting the Dutch in the eastern Cape Province, which (like Rhodesia and the Transvaal) was previously inhabited by Cappoids. Of tribes lying south and southwest of Zimbabwe, the BaTswana have lighter-coloured skins, whilst the Nguni languages (i.e. Zulu, Xhosa and Swazi) contain certain “click” consonants, indicating absorption of some original Cappoid stock by these four tribes. For a discussion of Hottentot-Bantu mixtures in terms of gammaglobulin in blood, see P.V. Tobias [in Hammond Tooke, my ref. 14, pp. 26-27] – citing Jenkins, Zoutendyk & Steinberg in the Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 32, no.2 (1970), pp. 197-218.
When encountered by the British in the 19th century, Shona people were agricultural and pastoral, just like other tribes around them. Physically, too, the MaShona resemble tribes living to the north.

31. Bent p.vii, (cited by Gayre, p.84, who also favours the Sabaeans). By about the sixth century AD, the Aksumite Abyssinians had become the dominant power in the Red Sea, having subjugated the Sabaeans – which explains why both Cosmas Indicopleustes and Masudi attributed the southeast African gold trade to Abyssinians. In any event, there had been commercial and cultural links across the Aden Straits for many centuries; the Semitic languages of those two Red Sea countries were very similar. The Falashas of modern-day Ethiopia are the remnant of a Judaistic society there.

32. Pliny the Elder – ‘Naturalis Historia’, c.70 AD, volume VI, section xxxii.
Indeed, Sabaean gold wealth dates right back to the Queen of Sheba (= Saba): see ‘The Holy Bible’ – <1 Kings, chapter 10.
Also see the reference to Al-Hamdani in my note 12.

33. Gayre pp. 20-21, 31; Murdock pp. 204 et seq.

34. Gayre pp. 155, 159; de Barros p.269. It is interesting that the name of the mountain range “Inyanga” in the fertile northeast of the country – means “moon” in some Bantu languages.

35. Described by Doe, D.B. – ‘Southern Arabia’; Thames and Hudson, London, 1971.
Sirwah temple still has a standing wall containing an inscription; (only fragments remain at Marib). Cf. Gayre p.234.

It is worth emphasising that neither Junod, nor van Warmelo, nor Parfitt – are seeking to prove any theory on the origin of ancient Zimbabwe. Thus, their descriptions of the MaLemba are completely detached from that controversy. In particular, the first two authors confirm the Lemba role in introducing circumcision to southern Africa, and their tradition of an overseas origin.


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