Zambia - Pre-Colonial History
The history of Zambia spans thousands of years. Zambia’s population lives on lands that have been inhabited for many generations. Zambia’s history can be broadly classified into four categories: the Early Stone Age, the Middle Stone Age, the Late Stone Age, and modern history.
The indigenous hunter-gatherer occupants of Zambia began to be displaced or absorbed by more advanced migrating tribes about 2,000 years ago. The major waves of Bantu-speaking immigrants began in the 15th century, with the greatest influx between the late 17th and early 19th centuries. They came primarily from the Luba and Lunda tribes of southern Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Angola but were joined in the 19th century by Ngoni peoples from the south. By the latter part of that century, the various peoples of Zambia were largely established in the areas they currently occupy.
Early Stone Age sites have been unearthed in many parts of Zambia, the most significant being at the Kalambo Falls in the northern part of Zambia and at Victoria Falls in the southern part of the country. There is evidence that primitive humans began to use fire systematically about 60,000 years ago. In addition, archeologists in Zambia unearthed the skull of Broken Hill Man; the skull is estimated to be 70,000 years old.
The Middle Stone Age in Zambia can be traced back to 25,000 years ago. During this age, people began to manufacture tools for hunting purposes. They also discovered a way to bury the dead. Most people lived in family groups near water. They sustained themselves by hunting and collecting wild fruits, honey, and tubers.
The Late Stone Age in Zambia can be traced back to 15,000 years ago. During this period, people began to live in caves and rock shelters, the walls of which were decorated with paintings. Most of the paintings had ritual or religious meaning. It was during the Late Stone Age that the bow and arrow was invented. The bow and arrow revolutionized hunting and it gave humans a mechanical weapon of war and a method of starting fire. People of the Late Stone Age never tilled land or kept animals, but they survived by hunting and collecting wild fruits and honey.
Perhaps as a response to foreign intrusions in southern Africa, Shaka of the Zulu and Nguni clan, set about creating a centralized militaristic state in the early 19th century. Surrounding peoples who did not voluntarily agree to absorption into the growing Zulu empire had no option but to flee for survival. Three of these groups were to make a forceful impact on Zambia, 1500 km to the north of the Zulu heartland in eastern South Africa.
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