Historical and Archaeological Tours in Africa
The African continent prides in a large number of fascinating archaeological and historic sites that you can explore during your safari in Africa. For many the Pyramids of Egypt is what they know however, i can put it in simple terms that they are just a tip of the great marvel that this continent has to offer to tourists enthusiastic about history and archaeological findings.
For thousands of years, Africa has walked through a journey of civilization which consequently has left a trail of historic sites ranging from the renowned ancient pyramids of Egypt, to the beautiful castles, palaces, churches and mosques. all these can be seen on your visit here.
How many heritage sites are in Africa?
One would wonder how many world heritage sites are found on the African continent, well I can gladly tell you that there are one hundred and twenty nine (129) sites on the African continent. Of these, forty (40) are decorated for their outstandingly unique natural features, five (5) fulfil the natural and cultural category whereas eighty four (84) sites are cultural sites.
in this article we bring you some of the top and most popular ruins in Africa, as well as a number of prominent archaeological sites to explore.
Best Historical Ruins to see in Africa
For over a millennium, the earth’s second most densely populated continent – Africa, used to be an abode to majority of mankind’s most significant historical cultures. This continent all the way from Tunisia in the North down to South Africa in the south is home to a number of the most amazing ruins in the world that include monolithic towers, huge amphitheaters as well as cliff-sides which have withstood the test of time for thousands of years. Have a more in depth understanding of the history of mankind by touring these grounds of ancient religious sites and early kingdoms all over Africa on your visit there. below we bring you some of the top most known ruins in Africa.
- Volubilis’ Roman ruins found in Morocco
Volubilis is a remarkably perfect example of a city that possesses various cultural attributes ranging from the high antiquity up until the Islamic times and in 1997, it was enumerated as a World Heritage ground by UNESCO. This primitive town also symbolizes Christian as well as African influences that can be seen in the establishment and structural embellishments. Approximately half of the ‘city’ of Volubilis has been dug up (excavated) inclusive of several private buildings and many distinguished public structures. Mansions of the rich people in town are found in this area that possesses lots of well-guarded and magnificent mosaics. You can easily access these ruins by taking a day tour from Fez or Meknes. You will either have to book a taxi to drive you there and reward them for their waiting time or hire a car that can get you to the site because buses do not stop at this site. The fee for entering is about three US Dollars.
- Luxor Temple – Luxor in Egypt
The Luxor Temple – the world’s most historic outdoors museum rests on the River Nile’s eastern banks within Luxor city. The Luxor temple that was built around 1400 BC was established to idolize Amun Ra who was believed by the ancient Egyptians as the King of gods and also the god of Kings. The sanctorum was constructed in1390 – 1452 BC by Amenhotep III, and finalized by Tutankhamun and by Horemheb, then further supplemented on by Ramesses II. The temple as well as its surroundings accommodated the government and also portrayed as a garrison during the era of the Roman ruling. You will have to pay about fifteen US Dollars ($15) to access the Luxor museum close by and the ruins. You can decide to adventure the ruins in the evening time when it is a lot cooler and the sun has gone down since the sun in Egypt is quite relentless plus it is advantageous to explore at night as the site is well illuminated.
- Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
Towards the end of Zimbabwe’s ancient historical era – the Iron Age, the kingdom’s active capital was the Great Zimbabwe. This historical ground sheltered about eighteen thousands people and it stretched across an area of one thousand seven hundred acres making it sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest ruins today. During the eleventh century, the establishment of the middle-age city started and proceeded up to the fifteenth century. The Great Enclosure, the Valley Complex, the Hill Complex are the three most prominent and standing out structural groupings that dwell in these ruins. They were all constructed of quite an amazing dry-stone building technique which did not require the use of mortars to hold the stones at bay.
In the South Eastern highlands of the country from Masvingo town, the Great Zimbabwe is found around seventeen miles from there and one can get there within twenty minutes by a private cab or a bus. For non-residents, the fee for entering scales from $15 to $25.
- Leptis Magna in Libya
Across the Mediterranean, the top well-guarded site of the Roman ruins is the Leptis Magna. In 46 BC, this site was included in the Roman Empire after having been initially discovered in the 7th Century’s latter half BC. Afore getting to your destination, the drive taken from Tripoli lasts for two hours and involves passing seven distinct check posts for about eighty miles. The fee for tourists to access the ruins is around five dollars and for locals, it is free. Prior to planning for your trip, you are recommended to review the travel website of your government for any latest cautions as well as advisories since Libya is among the most unpredictable world destinations as a result of armed conflict, terrorism, crime levels and civil unrest.
- Khami Ruins in Zimbabwe
Khami arose from the down fall of the Great Zimbabwe as the newly established Kingdom’s capital. Khami In the period of 1450 up to 1650 was erected in a style that is very close to the Great Zimbabwe’s stone construction although it possesses its signature style with designs of tartan and chevron embedded in the fabrication of passageways plus the walls. In 1986, UNESCO declared this site a world heritage site and this national treasure is a dwelling to the most far reaching (highest) decorated wall across the entire sub-Saharan region. These ruins are situated twenty two miles west from Bulawayo. You can hire a private taxi to get you there from the city. In order to access the ruins, you are required to pay an entrance fee of ten US Dollars ($10) but just know that calm sceneries and magnificent views near River Khami await you. Tourists are usually recommended to go with a packed picnic lunch to enjoy while soaking in the serenity and beauty of this place.
- Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania
Previously a center to one of East Africa’s finest empire, Kilwa Kisiwani – also known as the Isle of Fish is an enclave along Tanzania’s coast within the Indian Ocean. From the 13th century to the 15th century, the empire that was governed by a Kilwa Sultanate reached its climax blanketing across the Swahili coast by stretching from Kenya all the way to Mozambique. The oldest erect mosque on the coast of East Africa, the Great Mosque’s remarkable ruins and the Husuni Kubwa palace are some of the historical island structures found here. From its abode up above, the palace that was at one time sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest building has a view of the island. You would require a permit given to you by the local government office in Kilwa Masoko town and also employ a guide in order for you to tour this island. The overall sum of entry fees, guide fees, the twenty minute or more boat ride basing on the wind situation while setting off from Kilwa Masoko will cost you about forty US dollars.
- Laas Geel in Somalia
These structures comprise of ten rock niches resting on the Hargeisa rural fringes. Across the horn of Africa, these formations shelter a few of the first famous cave paintings. It appears that between 3000 and 9000BC, these cave paintings were popular among the inhabitants of the area even though the presence of this rock art won popularity internationally following its discovery at the end of the year 2002 by French scholars. The art in the various caves portrays cattle wearing ceremonial robes guided by humans, several wild dog types, a giraffe and a tamed dog. It takes about one hour and thirty minutes by car from Hargeisa plus you ought to get a permit that costs twenty Five US Dollars ($25). An additional catch is that you shall have to rent a cab together with an armed escort of the private military for your safety.
- Ruins of Aksum in Ethiopia
The Aksum city ruins that are centuries oldare situated close to the Northern border of Ethiopia and they include the ancient castle remains that go back in the middle of the first and thirteenth century AD, the royal tombs, the giant stelae, and the gigantic obelisks. Seventy five feet is how high the biggest of the remaining obelisks towers at the main stelae entrance is. The top-most biggest obelisk of one hundred eight feet rests at the place it hit the ground and is likely to be the most enormous monolithic stele ever sought to be raised at that moment by human beings. Being the state with the greatest power at one time betwixt Persia together with the Eastern Roman Empire, the Aksum kingdom was constructed at the intersection of three main lands. To get to numerous ruin site areas, you can take a ride to the major site where three dollars is the entry fee per individual. If you want to know more about particular ruins and explanations on their importance, you can hire guide who speaks English at only twelve US Dollars ($12).
Ten Most Important Archaeological Sites in Africa
Below we bring you the ten (10) most important archaeological sites on the African continent that will offer you a great insight in the different ancient discoveries that were made on this continent many of which are dated over one million years ago
- Olduvai Gorge
Olduvai Gorge also known as Oldupai Gorge found in Tanzania is among the most significant paleoanthropological sites worldwide. It has shown that it is very vital in providing more insights into the evolution of man. In 1979, the Olduvai Gorge was a declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Situated within the Great Rift Valley of Tanzania the gorge which has very steep sided is approximately 48 kilometres deep. It is found in the eastern side of the Serengeti Plains within the Arusha region close to Laetoli, approximately 45 km (28 miles) away. Lateoli is also a vital archaeological site with evidence of ancient human settlement.
Louis Leakey together with his wife Mary Leakey identified and advanced the excavation as well as research programs at this internationally renowned site which made great discoveries concerning the evolution of man. The sediments uncovered in the surfaces of the ravine date back several years ranging from 15,000 to 2.1 million years ago. The sediments have produced the remnants of over sixty hominins (directly ancestral to humans or closely related to humans), offering the most continuous documentation of human evolution through the over two million years plus the oldest archaeology documentation of the evolution of stone tool industries.
- Koobi Fora in Kenya
The place surrounding Koobi Fora is famous for its siltstones plus sandstones that have properly conserved remnants of hominins as well as terrestrial mammals that were in existence over 4.2 million years back. Hominin remains that have been excavated in Koobi Fora are Homo rudolfensis, Homo habilis, Australopithecus anamensis, homo ergaster plus Australopithecs. They also discovered a number of stone tools majority of which are not related to the hominins. Koobi Fora is majorly the area surrounding Koobi Fora Ridge which is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana in the land of the nomadicGabbra people. The National Museums of Kenya suggest that the name Koobi Fora is from the Gabbra language.
The word Koobi Fora in the local Gabbra language of the natives who lives close to this site implies an area of commiphora as well as the source of myrrh – a natural gum. The ridge is an outcrop of majorly Pilocene or Pleistocene deposits. It is made up of siltstones, sandstones as well as clay stones that protect the variety of remains of terrestrial mammals such as the hominin species. Currently, the ridge is being washed away into a desert by a variety of temporary rivers that pour their water in the northeast part of Lake Turkana. Richard Leakey back in 1968, set up the Koobi-Fora Base Camp on a huge sand split protruding directly into the lake next to the ridge which he named the Koobi Fora Spit. A follow up survey and a number of excavations at numerous sites identified the area as a source of hominin fossils to enlighten about the evolution of humans during the past 4.2 million years. There are multitudes more of non-hominin remains than hominin remains which provides insight into the plants and animals that existed in the past.
In 1973, the Kenyan government subsequently reserved the area as Sibiloi national park setting up headquarters at the Koobi Fora Spit for National Museums of Kenya. The reserve is properly taken care of and is protected by hospitable but armed security guards. The conservation of these sites and specifically the wildlife region is very significant. Discovery as well as exploration are still undergoing under the protection of the Kobi Fora Research Project which works in conjunction with numerous universities as well as individuals worldwide.
- Valley of the Kings in Egypt
During the mid and towards the end of the second millennium BC, the king of Egypt also known as the Egyptian rulers as well as a few people who were aristocratic were laid to rest in tombs built in the ‘Valley of the Kings’. The place has become a tourist site with relics which can be seen from the Latin as well as Greek writings on the walls. Sadly, thieves disguised as tourists visited the places as well over time and vandalized most of the tombs. For a duration of close to half a century, ranging from the 11th to 16th century BC, stone cut tombs were uncovered for the Pharaohs as well as high ranking aristocrats of the New Kingdom.
The Valley’s main purpose was to be a burial ground from about 1539 BC – 1075 BC. It comprises more than 63 tombs starting with Thutmose I (or probably before him during the rule of Amenhotep) until Ramesses X or XI, however some common people have been buried in seized tombs. A while after overthrowing Hyksos in addition to the re-uniting of Egypt under the reign of Ahmose I, the monarchs of Theban started building sophisticated tombs that could properly illustrate their newly gained power. The tombs of Ahmose as well as his son Amenhotep I whose precise location is still a mystery were possibly in the 17th Dynasty cemetery of Dra’ Abu el-Naga’. The initial royal tombs within the Valley belonged to Amenhotep I (however this identification is argued about) as well as Thutmose I. However Thutmose’s advisor called Ineni, writes in his tomb that he told the king to put his tomb in the secluded valley.
In spite of the name, the Valley of Kings also has tombs of the most loved rulers in addition to the families of the aristocrats as well as the pharaohs. There are at most 20 tombs that have the remnants of Kings. The remnants of aristocrats plus the monarchs in addition to unidentified pits as well as embalming pits compose the remaining tombs. During the reign of Ramesses I building started in the distinct Valley of the Queens.
- LaasGaal in Somalia
LaasGaal is a complicated combination of rock houses as well as caves that have rock paintings that have been in existence since the 9000 BC. The rock art portrays people adoring cows with extended horns plus ceremonial robes. The natives were aware of the existence of these paintings for numerous years however a group of French researchers go to know about these sites in 2002. Similar to a number of other archaeological sites in Somalia, LaasGaal has not been wholly explored yet.
The LaasGaal cave paintings are believed to be among the most detailed rock paintings in Africa. They show cattle in ceremonial robes escorted by humans, and they are considered to have occupied this area. The necks of the cattle are adorned with what looks like plastron. A few of the cattle are also showed dressed in decorated robes. Apart from the long horned cattle, the rock paintings also depict a picture of a dog in a number of paintings of Canidae plus a giraffe. The site is in a ideal state as a result of the place where the art is situated which are preserved by giraffe overhangs.
- Gedi Ruins in Kenya
The wreck of Gedi is a historic as well as archaeological area next to the Indian Ocean coastline of eastern Kenya. This area is next to the city of Gedi (also referred to as Gede) in the Kilifi District also inside the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.
Gedi is among the numerous medieval Swahili-Arab coastal settlements which extend from Mogadishu, Somalia all the way to the Zambezi River in Mozambique. There are about 116 identified Swahili sites extending from southern Somalia to VumbaKuu along the Kenya-Tanzania border. Since the colonialists came across the remains at Gedi during the 1920s, excavation in the area has been the most extensive as well as most researched in addition to Kilwa, Manda, Comoros, Shanga plus Ungwana. The Gedi site has an enclosed town as well as a relatively remote area around the town. Every single building at Gedi such as a variety of houses, a palace plus a mosque are built out of stone with one floor and they are unfairly distributed throughout the town. There a number of vast open spaces in the town which comprise of thatch houses plus earth. Stone “pillar tombs” are a unique kind of Swahili Coast building design that can be seen at Gedi.
The prime location of Gedi along the coast in addition to its affiliation with related sites at the Swahili coast have turned it into a vital trading centre. Despite the historical documents that are identify Gedi with the Indian Ocean trade, it is considered to have been among the highly relevant sites along the coast. Gedi’s unique architecture designs as well as a large supply of imported material such as coins, pottery, beads are a testimony of Gedi’s steadily increasing success during the period of its settlement since as early as the 11th century until its desertion in the early 17th century.
- Nok in Nigeria
In addition to being an archaeological site, Nok is a village located in Nigeria and it is popular across the world for its terracotta statuettes. The site has been in existence since the mid- fourth millennium BC (however it is not agreed upon by all) and it got its name from the Nok culture. This ancient culture came in to view in Nigeria during the 11th century BC however it fell apart during the 300 AD for anonymous causes. Although most West African communities were considered backward during that period, Archaeological research shows that the Nok culture had extremely advanced back then.
The use or functionality of the Nok statuettes is still a mystery. Generally, the Terracotta is majorly stored in randomly distributed parts or parts. This is the reason why the Nok art is being popularly known for the heads of men as well as women with intricate and refined hairstyles. The terracotta’s are in parts since the excavation are normally done from alluvial mud in ground made by water. The statues discovered there are broken, hidden, polished and rolled. It is not common to find huge sizes preserved whole which makes them really expensive on the art market internationally. The statuettes are coil built, hollow, with heads plus bodies almost the size of humans that are portrayed with a lot of jewlry, varied postures as well as highly intricate features. Not much information is available of the initial importance of these terracotta’s however some people believe that they were grave markers, ancestor portrayal or charms to wad off infertility, crop infertility as well as illness. However if we rely on the dome-shaped bases that are on numerous statues, it is plausible that they might have been used for decorating the roofs of their houses.
Margaret Young-Sanchez an associate curator of Art of the Americas, Africa as well as Oceania in the Cleveland Museum of Art elaborated that majority of the Nok statues were designed by hand from clay and made in a way that shows some inspiration from wood carving. Soon after they dried, the statues were smeared with slip plus burnished to create a glossy and smooth surface. The terracotta’s are hollow with a number of openings to enable drying as well as firing. The process of firing probably looked like the one currently applied in Nigeria in which the statues are concealed with twigs, leaves as well as grass and burned for a number of hours.
Due to natural erosion as well as dispositions, Nok statues were dispersed to several depths within the Sahel grasslands which led to a challenge in tracing them as well as classifying these statues. Fortunately, two archaeological sites, Taruga as well as SamunDukiya were discovered having Nok statuettes that were untouched. Radiocarbon as well as thermo-luminescence tests identified that the terracotta’s were about 2000 – 2500 years old which makes them one of the most ancient in Western Africa. Numerous further dates were regained during the recent archaeological discoveries dating back to the start of the Nok tradition and even way before that. As a result of the resemblance between the two sites, archaeologist Graham Connah considers that the Nok terracotta’s show a design that was taken up by a variety of iron-using farming societies of different cultures, other than it being a defining characteristic of a specific group of people as people often believe.”
- Laetoli in Tanzania
Laetoli, located in Tanzania can be traced back to the Pilo-Pleistocene and is popular for its hominin footprints, conserved in volcanic ash. The place that has Laetoli foot prints (Site G) is situated about 45 km south of Olduvai Gorge. The area plus the foot prints were first seen by Mary Leakey, an archaeologist in 1976 but they were uncovered by 1978. Relying on the analysis of footmarks, “The Laetoli Footprints” established through undeniable proof that the theory of bipedalism in Pliocene hominins and got notable acknowledgement by the publics as well as scientists. From 1998, paleontological travels that were under the management of Dr. Amandus Kwekason from Tanzania’s National Museum as well as Dr. Terry Harrison from the New York University proceeded which resulted in to the discovery of about a dozen new hominin findings plus an understandable remake of the paleoecology (the study of interactions of organisms and (or) with their environment across ecological time scales).
Over 3.7 million years old, they are the most ancient proof of hominin bipedalism during that time. Afterwards, older Ardipithecusramidus fossils were discovered with characteristics that showed bipedalism. Along with the footmarks, there were a number of other findings uncovered at Laetoli such as animal skeletal remains as well as hominin. Studies on the skeletal structure as well as the footprints suggested that bipedalism came before larger brains in hominins. When it comes down to species, type of hominins could not be identified however Australopithecus afarensis is popularly suggested.
- Meroe in Sudan
Meroe is an old city on the eastern banks of the Nile found approximately six kilometres north east of Kabushiya station next to Shendi, Sudan, about two hundred kilometres the North East of Sudan’s capital Khartoum. Next to the site are a number of villages referred to as Bagrawiyah. Meroe used to be the capital city of the Kingdom of Kush for many hundreds of years. The Kushitic Kingdom found in Meroe transferred its name to the island of Meroe which at the time was the urban centre of Butana, an area bordered by the River Nile, the Blue Nile as well as the Atbara.
Back then, Meroe city used to be on the border of Butana in addition to two other Meriotic cities in Butana including Naqa as well as Musawwarates-Sufra. The initial site was named as Meroe by the King of Persia – Cambyses, after his sister who he wanted to honour. The town was previously called Saba and had been named after its founder. There are a number of Meriotic sites in the western area of Butana as well as on the boundary of Butana which are very important for settlement of the centre of the developed area. The introduction of these settlements shows the authority of the country above subsistence production. The Kingdom of Kush which inhabited the town of Meroe shows one of a number of states situated in the middle Nile. It is among the oldest as well as majestic states that are located in the south of Sahara. When we take a look at the uniqueness of the neighbouring states in the Middle Nile, you can get better insights into Meroe in addition to the historical developments of the other early states that can be improved by focusing on the growth of power relation feedback in the Nile Valley states. The site of Meroe city can be identified by approximately two hundred pyramids however most of them are a wreck. They have a specific size as well as sections of Nubian pyramids.
- SterkfonteinCaves, in South Africa
The Sterkfontein Caves are also known as the Cradle of Humankind since it is the only place in the world with a huge number of hominid fossils. Until now, Paleo-anthropologists have continued digging on the place from the mid 1930s; remnants of approximately five hundred hominids have been discovered with ‘Little Foot’ plus ‘Mrs. Ples’ that are very popular. Whereas ‘Mrs. Ples’ has among the Australopithecus the most entirely formed skull ever discovered, ‘Little Foot’ has among the almost whole ancient hominid skeletons on the planet.
- Blombos Cave in South Africa
The Blombos Cave is a site that was found in 1991. It has supplied answers to a number of questions on Homo-sapiens that lived in the area over 100,000 years in the past. The question of behaviour patterns as well as cultural origin of the early occupants of the site is gradually being answered through this place. A number of paleo-anthropologists believe that current human behaviour can be tracked back to the human beings who exhibited creativity, innovation as well as organization.