The Watch

Bumbusi National Monument

Matabeleland, Zimbabwe

2008 World Monuments Watch

The Bumbusi National Monument comprises the remains of colossal sandstone walls, boulders, platforms, and dwellings dating to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as much older rock art. Declared a National Monument in Zimbabwe in 1946 because of its importance as a rare surviving monument of pre-colonial civilization, it also serves as a sacred site that remains an important spiritual center for the living descendents of the Bumbusi builders. Archaeological investigations in 2000 uncovered the ruins of the earthen floors of 18 homes, several with game boards set into them. Bumbusi is also part of the Great Zimbabwe tradition of meticulously planned and built monumental stone walls, most famously represented by the Great Enclosure of Great Zimbabwe, a World Heritage Site. The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe—the agency that oversees the country's heritage—owns the Bumbusi National Monument, but does not have sufficient funds to protect, maintain, or restore the site. The primary threats to the site include destruction of the walls by animals in the surrounding Hwange National Park. Elephants and buffalo push over walls, while baboons pick up and relocate stones from the structures. A fence is required to protect the site from the animals. Another major threat is the natural fragility of sandstone constructions, which degrade easily, a problem exacerbated by the lack of mortar. Watch listing should attract new attention to this and other cultural sites in southern Africa, which are not well known by the larger international community. Last update: 2008

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