Pieces of uMgungundlovu
Remembering iNkosi Dingane kaSenzangakhona’s capital

This online curation features materials related to uMgungundlovu, iNkosi Dingane kaSenzangakhona’s capital between 1829 and 1839.

Dingane kaSenzangakhona assassinated his brother Shaka in 1828 and took control of the Zulu Kingdom. He built his new capital, uMgungundlovu, in 1829 in the eMakhosini, close to the great places of his ancestors. At the time uMgungundlovu was the largest single settlement that had ever been built in the KwaZulu-Natal region. Dingane rebuilt and enlarged it in 1835, so that it measured about 750×500 metres draped over a hill sloping down to the uMkhumbane stream.

On 16 December 1838, Voortrekkers led by Andries Pretorius defeated the Zulu forces at iNcome (Blood) River. Dingane retreated northwards after burning uMgungundlovu down. uMgungundlovu existed for just nine years, but the intensity of activity there has left us with abundant remains ranging from artefacts to eye-witness accounts.

gardiner
In 1835 Dingane rebuilt and enlarged uMgungundlovu, so that it measured about 750×500 metres draped over a hill sloping down to the uMkhumbane stream.

Pictured: Allen Gardiner’s sketch of the capital in February 1835 (Gardiner 1836: between pp. 28-29).

lunguza
From the entrance a visitor walked upslope through a wide-open space containing izibaya (cattle pens). Here people gathered and performed for ceremonial and military events. On either side the izinhlangothi (housing for the amabutho) stretched in two arcs from the top of the settlement towards the entrance gate.

Pictured: A memory sketch by Lunguza kaMpakane in 1909, showing the location of his father’s hut at uMgungundlovu (JSA 1: 309).

Isigodlo
Above the izinhlangothi lay the isigodlo, the royal enclosure. Dingane lived in the isigodlo together with important female members of his family and the umndlunkulu — a group of girls and young women that Dingane received as tribute from other senior families.

Pictured is the isigodlo area at uMgungundlovu reconstructed on top of archaeological features.

ingxotha
Behind the isigodlo was an enclosed private area called the Bheje, for Dingane and his favourite umndlunkulu girls. Next to the Bheje was the workshop where brass-smiths produced ornaments such as izindondo (beads), izingxotha (gauntlets) and rings for necks, arms and legs.

Pictured: Brass izindondo (beads) and an ingxotha (gauntlet), unprovenanced but possibly from uMgungundlovu.

izimulwane
Brass-smiths produced beads in different shapes and sizes for different purposes. Associated with women were small facetted beads known as izimulwane.

Pictured are izimulwane found at uMgungundlovu.

bead mould
Archaeologists found a stone bead and bangle mould in a grain pit near the brass-working area. Brass-smiths cast beads in the circular depressions on the upper surface of the mould and used the groove on the side of the mould to shape bracelets and neck rings.

Technical drawing by Hestor Roodt of the mould prepared for Frans Roodt’s Masters thesis (1993: 143).

umnaka
Lunguza kaMpakane remembered that the Isipezi regiment wore umnaka – brass rings around the neck – which could burn the skin on hot days, and so they applied fat to treat the affected area (JSA 1: 312).

Pictured is a brass neck ring similar to the sketch in Lunguza kaMpakane’s notebook, from uMgungundlovu.

ring fragments
Archaeological excavations at uMgungundlovu have recovered many remnants of brass objects in the area adjacent to the Bheje.

Pictured are some of the bangle and neck ring fragments found in the Bheje area.

stick
Lunguza kaMpakane remembered that the Isiziba section of the Kokoti regiment carried knobbed sticks as weapons, which they wore tied at the back of the head (JSA 1: 310).

Pictured is a wooden stick from uMgungundlovu.

glass beads
Archaeological excavations at uMgungundlovu have recovered abundant colourful glass beads. Women strung and stitched the beads into richly decorated, colourful clothing. Also, the missionary Gardiner described the posts inside Dingane’s hut as decorated with beads (Parkington & Cronin 1979: 147).

Pictured are glass beads from uMgungundlovu next to Gardiner’s illustration of royal women in Dingane’s entourage (1836: plate between pp. 40-41).

isicoco polisher
A small stone artefact was found in a pot dimple of the ‘brewery hut’ in the isigodlo, which may have been used for polishing izicoco (headrings). The king granted men permission to get married and start wearing izicoco, which were black and lustrous rings stitched into a man’s hair.

Pictured is a small smooth stone, possibly an isicoco polisher, found in the isigodlo area at uMgungundlovu.

view of site
After uMgungundlovu was abandoned its location was never entirely forgotten. In the early 1970s the National Monuments Council developed it as a site museum, which it still is today.

Pictured is the site museum as it looks today, with the isigodlo area partly reconstructed – compare this view with the Gardiner sketch from 1835 (next slide).

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Pieces of uMgungundlovu
Remembering iNkosi Dingane kaSenzangakhona’s capital
home1

This online curation features materials related to uMgungundlovu, iNkosi Dingane kaSenzangakhona’s capital between 1829 and 1839.

Dingane kaSenzangakhona assassinated his brother Shaka in 1828 and took control of the Zulu Kingdom. He built his new capital, uMgungundlovu, in 1829 in the eMakhosini, close to the great places of his ancestors. At the time uMgungundlovu was the largest single settlement that had ever been built in the KwaZulu-Natal region. It was a vibrant centre visited by many people.

home2

On 16 December 1838, Voortrekkers led by Andries Pretorius defeated the Zulu forces at iNcome (Blood) River. Dingane retreated northwards after burning uMgungundlovu down. uMgungundlovu existed for just nine years, but the intensity of activity there has left us with abundant remains ranging from artefacts to eye-witness accounts.

gardiner
Pictured: Allen Gardiner’s sketch of the capital in February 1835 (Gardiner 1836: between pp. 28-29).
In 1835 Dingane rebuilt and enlarged uMgungundlovu, so that it measured about 750×500 metres draped over a hill sloping down to the uMkhumbane stream.
lunguza
Pictured: A memory sketch by Lunguza kaMpakane in 1909, showing the location of his father’s hut at uMgungundlovu (JSA 1: 309).
From the entrance a visitor walked upslope through a wide-open space containing izibaya (cattle pens). Here people gathered and performed for ceremonial and military events. On either side the izinhlangothi (housing for the amabutho) stretched in two arcs from the top of the settlement towards the entrance gate.
isigodlo
Pictured is the isigodlo area at uMgungundlovu reconstructed on top of archaeological features.
Above the izinhlangothi lay the isigodlo, the royal enclosure. Dingane lived in the isigodlo together with important female members of his family and the umndlunkulu — a group of girls and young women that Dingane received as tribute from other senior families.
ingxotha
Pictured: Brass izindondo (beads) and an ingxotha (gauntlet), unprovenanced but possibly from uMgungundlovu.
Behind the isigodlo was an enclosed private area called the Bheje, for Dingane and his favourite umndlunkulu girls. Next to the Bheje was the workshop where brass-smiths produced ornaments such as izindondo (beads), izingxotha (gauntlets) and rings for necks, arms and legs.
izimulwane
Pictured are izimulwane found at uMgungundlovu.
Brass-smiths produced beads in different shapes and sizes for different purposes. Associated with women were small facetted beads known as izimulwane.
bead mould
Technical drawing by Hestor Roodt of the mould prepared for Frans Roodt’s Masters thesis (1993: 143).
Archaeologists found a stone bead and bangle mould in a grain pit near the brass-working area. Brass-smiths cast beads in the circular depressions on the upper surface of the mould and used the groove on the side of the mould to shape bracelets and neck rings.
umnaka
Pictured is a brass neck ring similar to the sketch in Lunguza kaMpakane’s notebook, from uMgungundlovu.
Lunguza kaMpakane remembered that the Isipezi regiment wore umnaka – brass rings around the neck – which could burn the skin on hot days, and so they applied fat to treat the affected area (JSA 1: 312).
ring fragments
Archaeological excavations at uMgungundlovu have recovered many remnants of brass objects in the area adjacent to the Bheje.
Archaeological excavations at uMgungundlovu have recovered many remnants of brass objects in the area adjacent to the Bheje.
stick
Pictured is a wooden stick from uMgungundlovu.
Lunguza kaMpakane remembered that the Isiziba section of the Kokoti regiment carried knobbed sticks as weapons, which they wore tied at the back of the head (JSA 1: 310).
glass beads
Pictured are glass beads from uMgungundlovu next to Gardiner’s illustration of royal women in Dingane’s entourage (1836: plate between pp. 40-41).
Archaeological excavations at uMgungundlovu have recovered abundant colourful glass beads. Women strung and stitched the beads into richly decorated, colourful clothing. Also, the missionary Gardiner described the posts inside Dingane’s hut as decorated with beads (Parkington & Cronin 1979: 147).
isicoco polisher
Pictured is a small smooth stone, possibly an isicoco polisher, found in the isigodlo area at uMgungundlovu.
A small stone artefact was found in a pot dimple of the ‘brewery hut’ in the isigodlo, which may have been used for polishing izicoco (headrings). The king granted men permission to get married and start wearing izicoco, which were black and lustrous rings stitched into a man’s hair.
view of site
Pictured is the site museum as it looks today, with the isigodlo area partly reconstructed – compare this view with the Gardiner sketch from 1835 (next and first slide).
After uMgungundlovu was abandoned its location was never entirely forgotten. In the early 1970s the National Monuments Council developed it as a site museum, which it still is today.
gardiner2
Pictured: Allen Gardiner’s sketch of the capital in February 1835 (Gardiner 1836: between pp. 28-29).
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1989 Aron Mazel photographing


Credits

This digital curation was prepared by Justine Wintjes and Gavin Whitelaw of the Department of Human Sciences of the KwaZulu-Natal Museum.

It has grown out of collaborative work with the Five Hundred Year Archive and their website EMANDULO, where they gather together materials that can shed light on the last five centuries of southern African history.

Pictured are Thokozani Mhlambi and John Wright at uMgungundlovu during a joint fieldtrip in 2019.
 

Online resources

‘Exploring uMgungundlovu’, online curation by the Five Hundred Year Archive

Materials excavated from the uMgungundlovu archaeological site and associated items on Emandulo

 

References

Gardiner, A. F. 1835. Narrative of a journey to Zooloo country in South Africa. London: William Crofts.

JSA = The James Stuart Archive 1-6, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1986, 2001, 2014. Webb, C. de B. & Wright, J. B. (eds), Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal/KwaZulu-Natal Press & Durban: Killie Campbell Africana Library.

Photographs by Justine Wintjes (2023, except for view of uMgungundlovu and the isicoco polisher, both 2019).

 
 

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