The first discovery of previous humans in today’s Zambia was the Broken Hill skull in 1921. Broken Hill is now known as Kabwe. The skull was found while mining in the area and became known as Homo rhodensiensis. It was dated to be between 125,000 and 300,000 years old.
Moving forward for some thousands of years …
Before Southern Africa was colonised by the Bantu-speaking people from Central Africa, the land was occupied by hunter-gatherers, known as the Batwa. These people lived off the land; they had no domestic animals and did not plant crops.
Between the 1940s and 1960s research was done by members of the Livingstone Museum which was, and still is, the home of academics. The team was headed by Professor Desmond Clark.
During excavations at various sites in Northern Zambia they found that caves and shelters had been occupied by Batwa from as far back as 16,000 years ago. The fragments which were found at the sites were removed and taken to Livingstone Museum where they can still be seen. What could not be removed were the rock art displays.
Desmond Clark was a prolific writer. From one of his publications:
The present inhabitants say that these paintings are connected with the Butwa (Batwa)— the religious dancing of the Mbolela-pano, the original inhabitants of Kilwa, who are said to have been Pygmies. Mbolela-pano means “ I rot here”, and the tale is that these men were small and had big heads. If you shook them they fell down and could not rise again because they were top heavy; it was in this way that they died out. … (Kilwa Island is in Lake Mweru)
In the Lala country in Mkushi district there are several legends of a small people known as the “Utunanukamafumo ” or Utalalamafaso ”, who were renowned hunters of small stature and were living in Lalaland until some 80 years ago.
On the plateau east of the Luangwa River there is also a well-founded tradition among the Nsenga, Kunda and other tribes of the original inhabitants who were called the Bakafula. These people were small, bearded hunters who used bows and arrows and used to steal from their Bantu neighbours. Because of this habit of stealing the last of the Bakafula were killed in Nsenga country sometime between 80 and 100 years ago.
It seems from these stories that the Batwa continued to live in the area up until the late 1800s.
Kasama Rock Art (Mwela Rocks)
There are several sites to the east of Kasama with ancient rock art mostly of the geometric kind. The sites are protected by National Heritage Conservation Commission and payment has to be made when visiting. The caretaker’s house is just over 6 km along the Isoka Road. After payment, the caretaker will give you a guided tour.
Nsalu and Waka Waka
The following map shows an alternative route into Lavushi Manda National Park. It passes Nsalu Cave and Lake Waka Waka.
Nsalu Cave – A National Nonument
Photo from Kasanka Trust
The rock art was painted by the Batwa Hunter-Gatherers. It is thought to be about 5,000 years old.
Lake Waka Waka
Lake Waka Waka is fed by springs. It is a very pretty area and, it is said, there are no crocodiles in the lake so it is safe to swim. There is a campsite nearby so it can make a good stopover for self-sufficient campers.
To reach Waka Waka, take the same road as that to Nsalu Cave. But instead of turning to the cave continue north.