Perched on a plateau a few kilometres west of Pafuri, the stone walled citadel of Thulamela flourished from 1 200 to 1 600 AD. The discovery of the citadel of Thulamela, which means ‘place of birth’ in the VhaVenda language, is regarded as one of the most important archaeological sites in South Africa.
The royal enclosure at Thulamela accommodated a thousand people. Beyond the walled citadel, the hillsides are dotted with collapsed walls and signs of dwellings which indicate that up to 2 000 people may have lived here. There are also signs of lively trading.
The people of Thulamela were skilled goldsmiths and their main currency was gold. This they traded, along with ivory, for glass beads and corn, with traders who came east of the Limpopo from what is today Mozambique. There is also evidence of contact with people from West Africa.
The vhaVenda however where not the first people to inhabit this region. There are many caves dotted through the sandstone outcrops with evidence of the Bushmans presence.
New rock art sites have recently been discovered in the Dambale and Domboni hills and bits of pottery can be found through out the area. Stone age tools up to 2 million years old lie scattered between the Mutale and Limpopo rivers.
The beauty of this area and Venda in general, because it is communal property, is that one can explore.
Enjoy the freedom but please respect the traditions and culture of the people who live here.