Phoenician Gold Mines of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)
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Phoenician Gold Mines of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)
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Was South-East Africa a major source of Phoenician gold import?
Adapted Excerpts from "The Ancient Ruins of Rhodesia" by R.N. Hall and W.G. Neal, 1904

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Supposed Himyaritic Occupation of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) Considered

In giving an outline sketch of the arguments supporting the hypothesis of the Himyaritic occupation of Rhodesia, it should first he stated that this branch of the Semitic family was, at the earliest dawn of history, occupying Yemen.

Meanwhile, from the Phoenician kingdoms on the Eastern Mediterranean came the offshoots Phoenician colonies of Carthage, Sardinia, Malta, Sicily, Cyprus, Hippo, Utica, Pelusium, Cilicia (Tarsus), Memphis (in Egypt), and those in most parts of the Mediterranean. These were the people who worked for tin in the British Isles, whom, some believe, left the memoria standing to this day of their nature-worship in Ireland, Scotland, England, and even in Iceland, and who gave Spain its earliest history. Whether they were the same people who erected the stone temples, circles, and monolith in South America and the South Sea Islands is a question not arising in connection with Monomotapa. Later we shall notice the connection of Rhodesia with the Mediterranean Phoenician Canaanites.

Some of the arguments advanced as to the Himyarites having occupied Rhodesia may be stated as follows:

  1. The almost identical resemblance pointed out by Professor Müller between ancient temples in Zimbabwe and that of the Himyarites.

    This argument by analogy can also be applied to almost all the Zimbabwes in Rhodesia that were built during the first Zimbabwe period.

  2. Herr Brugsch emphasises the Himyaritic occupation of Monomotapa, but believes the images of the birds found at Zimbabwe represented the zodiacal light, the previous and the after-glow. M. Naville is especially of opinion that there exists a strong connection between Venus, the star of the Himyarites, and the goddess worshipped at Zimbabwe.

  3. The historical fact that the Himyaritic nation was enormously rich in gold.

    (a) In 1700 B.C., on the Egyptian monuments, were depicted the exports of Punt, such as ostrich feathers, leopard skins, giraffes, lions, cynocephalus apes, elephants' tusks, and ingots of gold, all essentially products of South-Eastern Africa. Aristeas, Agatharcides, and Old Testament references -such as "The merchants of Sheba ... were thy merchants; they occupied in thy fairs [markets]...with all precious stones and gold" (Ezek. xxvii. 21, 22) ...all testify to the enormous gold holding of the Himyarites, who supplied the then known world with the metal.

    (b) There is common agreement of authorities that the Himyarites imported gold.

    (c) Aristeas states that the gold brought to Rome did not come from Arabia.

  4. The great majority of recognised archaeologists and antiquarians of Europe who have written on this question express views favouring the hypothesis that the first occupation of this country was that of the Himyarites while the minority of such writers do not argue against the suggestion.

Herr Glaser, the decipherer of Himyaritic inscriptions, states: "So much is absolutely certain, that Himyar then possessed almost the whole of East Africa. Such a possession, however, was not won in a night, but rather presupposes…centuries of exertion."

Dr. Schlichter, in the Geographical Journal (July, 1893), fully describes the commercial relations of the Himyarites with South-East Africa, and deals with their analogy of the ancient religion and the worship practised by the ancients at Zimbabwe.

Mr. Wilmot, in Monomotapa (P. 77), writes: "So far as it is possible to judge, it seems probable that it was the people of Saba (the Himyarites) who landed on the coast of Sofala, penetrated to the mines, and established a colony there." To concrete Mr. Wilmot's conclusions (pp. 86, 89) in condensed form, we find he is of opinion that most probably the Himyarites of Yemen first discovered the place and erected the temples for their stone-worship and worked for gold.

The Periplus states that the Himyaritic king Kharabit was in 35 A.D. in the possession of the East Coast of Africa to an indefinite extent.

Some writers note a connection between the name of the Sabze, or Sabi River, in Rhodesia, and the kingdom of Saba, or Sheba. The Sabaea, or Sabi, forms the great natural outlet to the coast for the populations of Rhodesia between the Zambesi and Limpopo Rivers.

Himyarites Occupation

In the Preface to Mr. Baines' work it is stated "Saba (Monomotapa and Rhodesia) lies more inland behind Sofida, and is supposed by some authorities, including Josephus to be the ancient kingdom of the queen who visited Solomon. This region is drained by a river called the Sabia.'

Dr. Karl Peters finds in the name Massapa (or Massaba) indication of art ancient Himyaritic settlement. He discovered near Injakalfura a great number of betyli* such as formed an object or emblem of religious worship in the oldest Semitic cults, and among these betyli he found a phallus, such as were connected with the original Semitic nature-worship. He describes the ruins of Injakalfura as being built in precisely the same style as those of the Semitic races.

Other arguments in favour of the Himyaritic occupation are bound up in those employed to prove that Ophir was the modern Rhodesia, which we shall now consider in outline only.

Was Rhodesia Ophir?

The vexed question as to whether the land of Monomotapa (Rhodesia) was the land of Ophir can best be stated by considering the Himyaritic occupation, for we find from sacred and secular writings that it was the merchants of Sheba who, in addition to being the gold merchants of the whole world, also exported to the Phoenician centres of Tyre and Sidon practically all the enormous quantity of gold those wealthy cities required, and which history avers they possessed — "Tyre heaped up…fine gold as the mire of the streets" (Zech.). It is admitted that the gold mines of the Ural Mountains could not have contributed more than a fraction of the quantity of gold possessed by the Phoenician Canaanites. Old Roman and Grecian historians are unanimous in stating that the Himyarites were the gold merchants of the world and that they purveyed it to all the then known countries, but none suggest that the gold came from Yemen, while all assert that it was brought by the Himyarites.

* Betûli, Baitulia = sacred stones. Phoenician = Bêthül. These stones were considered not merely the "dwelling-place of God," but even as God Himself — Wilmot, P. 41.

If, it is asked, the Phoenician Canaanites had then been in occupation of Monomotapa (Rhodesia) as their gold-producing colony for this country was ever in ancient days occupied for the main purpose of gold winning, and not for mere colonisation and settlement what possible need could there have been for them to have bought their gold from the Himyarites?

The terms "Ophir" and "Tharshish" of Scripture are essentially generic. There were at least two places to which the name "Tharshish" was applied. "Ophir" was employed as the title of a country rich in natural resources, as is the modern title of "El Dorado." The location to which this generic title of Ophir was applied must have been either in India or South-East Africa, unless we suppose with Prof. Keane that Ophir was not the gold-yielding land, but the gold mart, the importer and distributor of the precious metal. Practically all gold came from the south; it was not found in Yemen to any appreciable extent.

Suggested Indian Ophir

The Indian Ophir, if it existed, could only have been the Malabar Coast. Mr. Bent writes:

"India has never furnished large quantities of gold to the commercial world. In fact, it was frequently an article of import into that country. So far as ivory is concerned, it is well known that Asiatic elephants were, from time immemorial, made use of as beasts of burden, and that their value in this way prevented their slaughter."

The authorities whose opinions are inclined to favour the location of Ophir in India are few, and these are by no means unanimous amongst themselves, nor are they at all emphatic in stating the arguments in favour of such location. Besides, in their discussions on this question they lacked the information we now possess as to the later discoveries of ancient ruins in Rhodesia.

Dr. Schlichter says:

"Fortunately, the same period" (Biblical Ophir period) "comprises the exploits of the man who first explored India, viz. Alexander the Great. Among his followers were many who would have collected news about a gold-belt in India, provided that the latter actually existed. But no gold country whatever existed there; on the contrary, all Indian tribes were almost devoid of gold, and Arrianus, our best and most reliable source of information about the campaigns of Alexander the Great, states as emphatically as possible as follows:

"'Alexander and his army have refuted most of the stories in this direction, with the exception of some who have obviously made incorrect statements. It has thus been ascertained that all the Indians through whose territories Alexander and his army marched (and he marched through many of them) have no gold.' Therefore it is evident that India cannot possibly be the Ophir of antiquity."

Suggested South-East African Ophir

All the imports brought by Hiram for King Solomon could only have been obtained in one country. His voyages were made every three years (see later). Only Africa could have furnished them altogether.

Hiram's "Gold"

  1. Gold was, according to biblical and secular writings, the principal export of Ophir.

  2. Africa has always been known in ancient history as being the great gold-producing country of the world.

  3. Numerous authorities, such as Bruce, Huet, Quartremere and Guillain, as well as the great majority of later writers on the Rhodesian ruins, in considering the historic gold output of this country, favour the claims of Monomotapa (Rhodesia) to be the Ophir of Scripture. Mr. Wilmot (pp. 36, 37) writes: " The African Ophir was inland from the Sofirla coast in South-East Africa (Monomotapa)." Again, Mr. Wilmot (pp. 86-99), summing up the arguments of authorities, writes. "The preponderance of evidence is decidedly in favour of the principal Ophir of Scripture having been inland from the Sofala coast in the country of Monomotapa!' Mr. Bent, who examined several of the ruins and visited the ancient gold-workings, arrives at the same conclusion.

  4. The presence in Rhodesia of ancient ruins, dating from practically prehistoric times, some of which are known to have been standing in 1100 B.C., the orientation and astronomical lines of which, in some instances, testify to an age considerably earlier than that period. The styles of architecture show several periods of occupation, each of which, it is computed, covered many centuries of years. The internal evidences, gained by exploration in the ruins, show that the principal industry of the ancient occupiers was that of gold mining. Such monster buildings were not erected for an un-payable industry.

  5. The presence in Rhodesia of ancient gold-workings, covering areas of many hundreds of square miles, and most extensive alluvial and shed gold-workings by the ancients. ("In very remote times there existed, as is known from Egyptian monuments, a trade from South-East Africa into the Red Sea… There are other indications that gold used to come from East Africa, but so far as we know it has never been obtained in quantity from any part of the coast between Mozambique and Cape Guardafui Thus there are grounds for believing that a traffic between the Red Sea and the coast south of the Zambesi may have existed from very remote times of its late, existence there is, of course, no doubt." — Professor Bryce, Impressions of South Africa.

  6. Mr. J. Hays Hammond, the gold-mining engineer, in 1894, the very early days of modern prospecting of gold-belts in Rhodesia, examined certain portions of some of the gold-belts, and reports: "That an enormous amount of gold has been obtained from these workings in the past is, however, unquestionable. Millions of pounds sterling worth of gold have undoubtedly been derived from these sources.” Later computations, embracing ill the at present ascertained gold areas in Rhodesia, based on a very partial estimate as to the amount of reef extracted by the ancients, and also taking such reef at only a portion of the value per ton of the present Rhodesian output over the mill-plates, show that the ancients must have extracted very many millions of pounds sterling worth of gold from the Rhodesian portion of Monomotapa alone. (Mr. Telford Edwards, one of the leading mining engineers in Rhodesia, in 1897 estimated the value of the ancient output of gold from this country at £75,000 sterling at least.)

  7. The period of the ancients working for gold in Rhodesia is admitted by authorities to have covered both previously and subsequently that period in which biblical references were made to Ophir. These references, twelve in all, range from Genesis to Isaiah, and consequently cover the whole of Jewish history before the exile.

  8. The goldfields of Monomotapa were known to the world before Hiram's time. (Note: the ancient Grecian legends as to voyages for gold describe what may have been the voyages round Africa to the Monomotapa gold export centre.)

  9. Hiram voyaged for King Solomon's gold, ivory, slaves, apes, precious stones, sandalwood, and peacocks every three years. The Scriptures do not state how long these voyages required to accomplish. In any event, the gold for export awaited him, and had not to be obtained and afterwards taken down to the coast after his arrival. The gold obtained in the single voyage (I Kings ix. 28) was four hundred and twenty talents, or a present value of four million pounds sterling. (RAWLINSON in Phoenicia)

  10. The Periplus states that Rhapta (also mentioned by Ptolemy) was a dependency of Sabaea or Yemen, and Dean Vincent imagines Rhapta to have been ten degrees south of the Equator (near Quiloa).

  11. Yemeni legendary tradition largely associates South East Africa with Ophir and the Queen of Sheba. For example, Conto, a Portuguese writer, referring to Mount Fura, in Rhodesia ("Fura" is believed by some to be a corruption of "Ophir"), where there are very extensive and Cyclopean ancient ruins, states that the Kafirs called it Fur, and the Moors, Afur. He fixes Rhodesia, and mentions the Masouve, River (Mazoe) and Tete, on the Zambesi.

Hiram's "Ivory"

Since the Night of Time, Africa has always been recognised as the chief ivory-producing country of the world. Here elephants have no value as beasts of burden; all are wild. Ancient historians all allude to the enormous quantity of ivory annually exported from Africa, and of the trade with South East Africa in ivory. Elephants are still found in Rhodesia, but now mainly in Northern Rhodesia, where the ivory trade still flourishes.

Hiram's "Slaves"

The slaves brought by Hiram to King Solomon came with the same expedition as the gold and ivory. It is most probable that the gold and slaves came from the same country and by the same port.

The "Apes" were, according to bas-reliefs, cynocephalus, and a species common to South-East Africa. "Precious stones" might have been diamonds, for which South Africa is famous. “Sandal-wood” is a generic title, and many woods found in South-East Africa can fairly come under this title. "Peacock" is also a genetic title to cover all birds of brilliant plumage, and such are plentiful here.

Milton perhaps, conveys the prevailing opinion of his times with regard to the location of Ophir when, in Paradise Lost, xi. 399-401, he writes

“Mombaza, and Quiloa, and Melind, And Sofala (thought Ophir) to the realm Of Congo, and Angola farthest south."

The people of Sofala, according to their own traditions and Portuguese records, have always associated the memory of the Queen of Sheba with the country lying inland behind the coast country of Sofala.

Ogilby, in his folio on African geography, principally, however, translated from Dapper, who again quotes Alvarez, says, "Yet divers make Ophir the same with Sofala, because it bath much gold and ivory, and if all the mainland included between the river Magnice and Quarna and submitting unto Monomotapa, be all, as Barros calls it, Sofala, as well as the rest on the sea-coast, it can with great reason be judged that this country be none but the Golden Ophir of Solomon, partly because of the houses there to be found near the gold mines, not built after the manner of the country, but seem the work of foreigners, and partly because of the inscriptions being strange and unknown. Moreover, Lopez, in 1) is voyage to the Indies, affirms that among the inhabitants of this country there remain books which show that Solomon every three years had his gold thence… Besides gold and ivory, this region produced apes (dog-faced baboons) in myriads, and if for peacocks we read ostrich feathers, and for almug trees we substitute ebony, or stink-wood, it leaves nothing to be desired."

Dr. Schilchter says:

"From the Old Testament references to Ophir and Arrianus it is evident that India cannot possibly be the Ophir of antiquity. Only other coast countries of the Indian Ocean can come into consideration, and Arabia and equatorial East Africa have been mentioned in connection with the Ophir problem.

"But against this assumption stands the clear text of the three most reliable and oldest passages of the Old Testament, viz. Kings ix. 26-28 and x. 11, 22. It seems unintelligible how anyone who compares these passages in a literal and critical translation (for instance, that by Professor Kautsch), could assert that the passage in chapter x. verse 22 did not allude to Ophir. It was emphatically stated that we had to deal with a sea navigation which extended to remote countries, in fact, to the end of the then known world and it is therefore clear that this gold land of antiquity could neither have been on the coast of the Red Sea nor on that of equatorial Africa or Arabia. One thing which appeared to he established beyond doubt was that the territories known today as Southern Rhodesia were, one thousand years before the Christian Era, a gold-producing country of a large extent, and colonised by the early Semitic races round the Red Sea, viz. by Phoenician Canaanites and Himyarites."

Huet, writing early in the eighteenth century on the voyages of Solomon, declares that he feels compelled to accept the fact that the place called "Ophir," from which gold was fetched by the Tyrian fleet, was unquestionably on the south-cast coast of Africa, in that part known under the names of Mozambique and Sofala; that at the time when King Solomon reigned and Phoenician navigators traded with these shores; and that this commerce was anterior to the exact period referred to in Scripture. For the gold of Ophir was known to the Idumeans before the time of David, and the Book of Paralipomenon (the Chronicles) records the fact that this prince received a portion of it. "To seek out the origin of this commercial movement we must go back to those hardy pioneers (probably the Himyarites who were able to show the Phoenician Canaanites the geographical position of Ophir and lead them to the mines of gold." Mr. Wilmot observes, "This is indeed true. The fleet of King Hiram never discovered Ophir. Its treasures were known previously, and we are therefore now confronted with the fact that some of the Zimbabwes of Monomotapa were built more than one thousand years before the Christian Era."

Dr. Karl Peters, in stating his case for the location of Ophir in Monomotapa, quotes, inter alia, the following:

"'And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon' (I Kings ix. 27, 28).

"'And she [the queen of Sheba] gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon. And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones' (I Kings x. 10, 11).

"'And all king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon. For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.'

"In I Chronicles xxix. 4, 'I have given,' says David, ‘even three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the houses withal.’

He observes, "The best-based theories are three, of which the one places Ophir in Arabia, another in India, and the third one in South Africa," and adds, " I, personally, since I have been studying this problem, have always been of opinion that we have in the Semitic word 'Ophir,' or 'Afer,' the root of our present name of the continent of Africa, 'Africa' being the Latin adjective of 'Afer.' This purely philological derivation led me to believe at once that we must look for Ophir not in Arabia and India, but in some part of Africa."

Ophir has been placed in Armenia, in Phrygia, in Spain, in Peru, in the Malayan Peninsula, in Ceylon, and in Sumatra. Christopher Columbus, says Dr. Peters, was firmly convinced that he had found Ophir in the West Indies, and reporting to the King of Spain on his third voyage, he writes, "The mountain Sopoto " (the name for Ophir, which in the Septuagint is written "Sophora"), " which it took the king’s (Hiram) ships three years to reach, on the island of Haiti, has now come with all its treasures into the possession of their Spanish majesties."

Ben Jonson's lines show where he thought Ophir to be located:

"Here's the rich Peru, And there, sir, are the golden mines, Great Solomon's Ophir."

The above-stated arguments in favour of Ophir being the present Rhodesia by no means exhaust the tale of "proofs" advanced by those authorities that favour this theory. Unfortunately, when this question was raised in the principal papers and scientific journals in Europe a few years ago, there was practically little or no evidence from Rhodesia forthcoming. Mr. Bent (1891) had only visited some ten ancient ruins, and he speaks of thirteen others he was told of, and several of the ruins mentioned by Mr. Bent were of minor importance, and of the later Zimbabwe periods. Even Professor Bryce, who in 1895 visited Rhodesia, says: "I have heard of ten or twelve pieces of wall in different parts of the plateau (Mashonaland and Matabeleland); probably others exist!' All the late writers, excepting Dr. Schlichter, mention a less number of ruins than Mr. Bent refers to, and the majority of them are the same identical ruins.

The most able, exhaustive, and reliable arguments are undoubtedly those advanced in the works of Dr. Schlichter, on the question of the ancient ruins in Rhodesia, while Dr. Karl Peters has many further "proofs" gained in the Mount Fura district, (the gold mines of Mount Furn were, in 1721, known to the Portuguese as "Ofura.") which place very few writers on this subject appear to have visited.

But from the more than five hundred ruins known to exist in the Rhodesian portion of Monomotapa, of which (thanks to the discoveries of Messrs. Neal and Johnson, the sole lessees under the grant to explore all ancient ruins south of the Zambesi) we propose in this work to give particulars concerning some two hundred ruins, and further proofs may probably be forthcoming to strengthen the theory advanced by those who already thoroughly believe that Rhodesia is the Ophir of the Scriptures. Additional evidences may also probably he afforded by the many known ruins scattered over the present Portuguese portion of Monomotapa. However, it is beyond the sphere of the writers of this work to indulge in any theories on the Ophir question, their province being to state all information of authoritative character concerning the actual ruins themselves, and allow these facts to tell their own story.

The Suggested Subsequent Occupation of Monomotapa (Rhodesia) by the Phoenician Canaanites

Having stated in outline the arguments in support of the theory of the Himyaritic occupation of Monomotapa, we come to consider, also in outline, the arguments in favour of the subsequent occupation of Monomotapa by the Phoenician Canaanites.

In course of time, by natural absorption, the Phoenician Canaanites became not only the masters of the Mediterranean and northern seas, but of the Indian Ocean and the colonies that the Himyarites had planted along with trading with these colonies.

The theory is, and it appears well founded so far as it can be proved, that the Phoenician Canaanites, who had then become the premier explorers, merchants, navigators, miners, and metallurgists of the world, occupied among other former Himyaritic colonies, the country of South-East Africa, which included Monomotapa, or Rhodesia.

In occupying Monomotapa, they introduced fresh features in building, as shown not only by new Zimbabwes, which they themselves are believed to have erected in Monomotapa, but by the extensions and reconstructions of the original Zimbabwes.

In the Great Zimbabwe, the peculiarity of building in terraces rising in tiers is altogether absent, and the original portions of Zimbabwe itself are held to have been built in the earliest period of ancient architecture extant in Rhodesia. Of course, at Zimbabwe there are reconstructions and extensions of the original building, and these reconstructions and extensions are of various periods, with the features of such periods prominent.

But in several parts of Rhodesia and other portions of Monomotapa there have been erected on the slopes or summits of the kopjes massive structures which, while following generally the first Zimbabwe type, have been built in three or more high-terraced tiers rising to the summit of the hills, surrounding them, and sometimes completely covering them. This "wedding-cake" feature, as it has been termed, is absent in all Zimbabwes built in the first period. Yet all these later Zimbabwes present all the evidence of having been erected by nature-worshippers, and contain the orientated temple "open to heaven," the sacred circle, the conical towers "the high places", the monoliths, and every evidence of Phallic worship. This class of Zimbabwe is represented, among many others, by Dhlo-dhlo, Regina, Meteme, and Khami.

There exists a marvellous similarity between these later Zimbabwes and many of the three thousand nauraghes, or terraced fortresses, which cover the island of Sardinia. In both the Rhodesian and Sardinian erections evidences of nature-worship are abundant. "The age," writes Mr. Wilmot, "of the Sardinian nauraghes goes back to a remote antiquity — to the Bronze Age — to a time when the Romans were not known on the Tiber!' Geyard (p. 6) writes: "I have no hesitation in considering the numerous round edifices of Sardinia, which are known under the name of nauraghes, as monuments of the worship of Baal." Moreover, by some of the authorities on this question, it is believed that these ruins were erected…for Phoenician worship are to be found in the Sardinian nauraghe ruins, both monoliths and stones, with the most unmistakable emblems representing a religion so vicious and debasing that in Palestine it incurred the righteous denunciations such as were hurled against Tyre and Sidon and the "high places" of Samaria where Baal was worshipped.

Some of the arguments advanced in support of the theory of the Phoenician occupation of Monomotapa may be mentioned, as follows:

  1. The known absorption by the Phoenician of the influence and commerce of the Himyarites in the Southern Ocean and its coasts, which occurred during the period in which Monomotapa was worked by the ancients for gold.

  2. The erection of later Zimbabwes in Monomotapa which, while adhering to the type of the first Zimbabwe period, yet had a development in architecture peculiar to themselves, and their marvellous similarity in this respect to the nauraghes of Sardinia.

  3. The exact representation of the same form of worship, with Phallic emblems, both in Rhodesia as well as in Sardinia or other Mediterranean colonies of Phoenicia, which are admitted by high authorities to be Phoenician. Betylae (sacred stones), as found so plentifully in Rhodesia, have been discovered in all countries once subject to Phoenician influence.

  4. The discovery at Zimbabwe of the soapstone cylinder of quern shape, with rings of rosettes on the top, and sides, which rosettes are believed to represent the sun, and are common in phallic decoration. This cylinder, which is considered, as undoubtedly Phoenician, is similar to the one found at the Temple of Paphos, in Cyprus, which was once a leading Phoenician colony. The rosettes are also similar to those on the sacred cone of the great Phoenician Temple of the Sun at Emesa, in Syria, and also to the rosettes on the Phoenician sepulchral stelae in the British Museum.

  5. The discovery of the soapstone birds at Zimbabwe, pronounced by authorities similar to the images of the birds sacred to Astarte, worshipped by the Phoenician Canaanites; also of Phallic emblems distinctly Phoenician.

  6. The discovery at Zimbabwe, by Mr. Bent, of the soapstone ingot mould corresponding exactly to the tin ingot, of undoubted Phoenician manufacture, discovered at Falmouth, and which is now in the Truro Museum. (Professor C. Le Neve Faster, F.R.S., and states that Injakalfura, near the Zambesi, where Dr. Peters locates Ophir, meant, "a great mine," corresponding to the name Wheat Vur, in Cornwall. The old tin-smelters of Cornwall were Phoenician Canaanites, and like the natives of mediaeval Monomotapa and of Rhodesia of to-day, they used quills for holding the small quantity of gold obtained in their tin-streaming operations.)

  7. The discovery of true Phalli.

  8. The presence of cones and conical buttresses. The cone (See Dr. Schlichter's works for descriptions of conical towers) at Zimbabwe is held to be a facsimile of the sacred cone in the Phoenician temple at Byblos.

  9. The historic record of the voyage of the Phoenician Canaanites under King Necho about 610 B.C. direct from the Red Sea to the coast of South-East Africa (Monomotapa).

These arguments could easily be enlarged upon and added to, but sufficient is shown to satisfy one that, at any rate, some substantial grounds exist for believing that the Phoenician Canaanites once settled Rhodesia and worked upon its vast areas of gold reefs.

All the aid that Portuguese records can render in elucidating the mystery that enwraps the ruins is most ably summed up in Mr. Wilmot's book, Monomotapa. The Portuguese hold of these inland territories (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) was singularly weak and tentative, far from permanent, and only comparatively brief. Not being colonists, they were compelled to keep by force of arms what they had conquered. They never completely subjugated the native tribes of these parts, and consequently were always at war. Too timid to journey far from the rivers that served as their lines of communication with the coast, they did not penetrate to all parts of Monomotapa. Coming along the Mazoe and Unifuli Rivers, they occupied the northern portions of Mashonaland, and with the aid of their roughly built and loop-holed forts, they held for a short time territory extending in a south-westerly direction as far south as Sebakwe.  There they established themselves for a time at their settlement, about eight miles distance in a direct line N.N.E. of the Chicago-Gaika Mine, on the north bank of the Sebakwe River. Here was built their last-known southerly fort, the ruins of which now cover fifty acres of ground, with loop-holed walls linking several kopjes on both sides of the river. The two cannon, one bronze and the other iron, found at the ancient and important ruins at Dhlo-dhlo, in the Upper Insiza district, and which bear the Portuguese coat of arms, may have been bought, through the medium of the Jesuit missionary, from them by Mombo, whose kraal was built among the ruins at Dhlo-dhlo; this Mombo being the son of Mombo who lived in a kraal built among the ancient ruins of Thaba Imamba, and who was skinned alive when the invasion by the Arnaswazie took place.

Jesuit missionaries and Portuguese traders, however, succeeded in penetrating much farther into the heart of the country. Jesuit missionaries are believed to have resided in or near No. I. Ruin at Khami. The territory being so precariously held, it is not at all surprising the Portuguese did comparatively little gold mining. There are evidences of their having continued some of the workings of the ancients, especially at the Bonsor Mine, and the discovery of their double-pointed iron picks, from which the wood handles had totted away, once perplexed the prospectors of Rhodesia. On the Zambesi they appear to have been far more successful, as the number of their ruined forts and settlements along the riverbanks seem to testify.

Selected extracts from Monomotapa (Rhodesia), by the Hon. A. Wilmot

(p. xvii.) Mr. Rider Haggard writes: "Mr. Bent proved to the satisfaction of most archaeologists that the ruins of Zimbabwe are undoubtedly of Phoenician origin. There are the massive and familiar Phoenician walls, there the sacred birds, figured, however, not as the dove of Cyprus, but as the vulture of her Sidonian representative, Astarte, and there in plenty the primitive and unpleasant objects of nature-worship, which in this shape or that are present wherever the Phoenician reared his shrines. There also stands the great building-half temple, half fortress — containing the sacred cone in its inner court, as at Paphos, Byblos, and Ernesus… Although some testimony is lacking, the many external evidences force the student to conclude that these buildings must have been constructed and that the neighbouring gold mines were worked by Phoenician Canaanites, or by some race intimately connected with them and impregnated with their ideas of religion and architecture."

(PP. 36, 37) Mr. Wilmot writes: "The builders of the Zimbabwes in South-East Africa and of the nauraghes in Sardinia were nature-worshippers of the early Phoenician cult, when stone-worship was one of the leading features of that religion!'

(ib.) "The arguments of MM. Perrot and Chipiez point to the fact the nauraghe builders (in Sardinia) came from (Laptis Magna, another Phoenician city on the Mediterranean) coast of Libya"

(ib.) "We may venture to attribute a very remote antiquity of the Bronze Age to both classes of buildings. Certainly we can scarcely be wrong in concluding that the oldest of the Zimbabwes of South-East Africa were erected before the ninth century B.C. There is little doubt that some of them existed when Hiram, King of Tyre, obtained gold for the Temple of Solomon."

(p. 89) “Most probably the Himyarites of Yemen discovered the place and erected temples for their stone-worship, similar to those raised in Arabia, and put up their Himyaritic inscriptions and worked for gold.

(P. 47) "In the Zimbabwes of South-East Africa there are no images of gods — no idols, except blocks of stone. This seems to give some indication of the early periods when the temple forts were built. Of course, roughly hewn images of birds have been found, but these are scarcely idols. The vulture was the totem of the Himyarites."

(P. 48) " In the ninth century B.C. the Phoenician religion began to decline. Though it flourished in the Phoenician colony of Carthage, it languished in its original home (Phoenicia)."

(p. 73) "The Phoenician Canaanites were so intimately connected with the colonisation and settlement of the countries of the Southern Ocean that we must consider all history there in connection with that of this great ancient people. They held exactly the same stone-worship of the early Sidonian and Tyrian periods, and their monuments and inscriptions testify that they unquestionably practised the same religion as that professed by the men who built the South African Zimbabwes."

(ib.) "So far as it is possible to judge, it seems probable that it was the people of Saba who landed on the coast of Sofala, penetrated to the mines, and established a colony there."

Phoenician Canaanites and Israelites

Note founded on the works of Rawlinson and Kenfick

The connection between the Phoenician Canaanites and Israelites was strikingly intimate, the Israelites being a younger branch of the Semitic family, from which the Phoenician Canaanites sprang.* The language of the Israelites was as closely related to that of the Phoenician Canaanites as German to Dutch, or Portuguese to Spanish, while the religion of the Phoenician Canaanites in their earliest days was, like that of the Israelites, polytheistic. The kingdoms of Phoenicians adjoined Palestine (known to the Phoenician Canaanites as Netu) on the north, near the hills of Galilee, and places in Phoenicia are constantly alluded to in both the Old and New Testaments; for instance, Tyre and Sidon, Paneas (Caesarea - Philippi), Lebanon, Alount Hermon, Sarepta, Mount Carmel, Gebal, etc.

The settlement of the Phoenician Canaanites was far anterior to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. In judges we read that the Phoenician Sidonians "dwelt careless, quiet, and secure." In area Phoenicia concentrated on the coastland, and yet it became the world power of its time.

Certain Phoenician tribes are mentioned early in Genesis, while the names of Malchizadeck (Gen. xiv. 18) and Abimelech (ib. xx. 2) are purely Phoenician. The Phoenician deities of the polytheistic age — both adapted and original — such as Baal, Astoreth, and Moloch, are frequently mentioned; also. Dagon (I Sam. v. 2; Macc. x. 84), while the sacred stones, pillars, towers, and "high places" of Phoenician worship are repeatedly referred to by the prophets. The tribe of Zemarites (Gen. x. 18), Gebal (Joshua xiii. 5; PS. lxxxiii. 7; Ezek. xiii. 5); Baal-Zephon, a Phoenician port (Exod. xiv. 2, 9); Elith, a Phoenician colony (I Kings ix. 26-28); Akko, Acre (Judges i. 31); Tyre, "a strong city" (Joshua xix. 29), Tartessus, a group of Phoenician colonies in Spain (Gen. x. 4; Ps. lxxii. 10; Isa. 1xvi. 18); migration of Phoenician Canaanites westward (Gen. xiv. 1-12); Gideon destroyed the sacred tower of the Alidianites (Judges viii. 7); Phoenician trade with Israelites (I Kings v. 9; Ezra iii. 7); Phoenician obtain wheat, honey and oil from the Israelites (Ezek. xxvii. 17); Phoenician luxury (Ezek. xxvi. 16, xxvii. 3-25, xxviii. 13); Tyre, Phoenician capital (Ezek. xxvii. 3); Tyre wealthy in gold (Zech. ix. 3); violence of Phoenicians (Ezek. xxviii. 16); Phoenician slave-traders (Ezek. xviii, 13); “pleasant houses" of Tyre (Ezek. xxvi. 12); Phoenician mining described (Job xxviii. I-II); Hiram furnished David with cedar trees (1 Chron. xxii. 4); Phoenician fleet on Mediterranean and Indian Ocean (I Kings ix. 27, 28, x. 15, 22); Hiram supplied Solomon with material for the Temple (2 Chron. ii. 3-10); Phoenician artisans employed in the building of the Temple (2 Chron. ii. 17, 18); Hiram manufactured ornaments for Solomon’s Temple (2 Chron. ii. 14); Solomon conceded a district of Galilee to the Phoenician Canaanites (I Kings ix. 11); Israelites build "high places" to Baal (Jer. xxxii, 35, xix. 5); Ahab builds Temple of Baal in Samaria, also at Jezreel (2 Kings xxi. 7, xxii. 6); Christ converses with a Phoenician woman (Mark vii. 26); Phoenicia receives the gospel (Acts ix. 19 g); Phoenicia "nourished" from Palestine (Acts xii. 20).

We also read in Scripture that Solomon married a Phoenician princess, that he worshipped in the Temple of Baal at Sidon, that the daughter of the King of Tyre and High Priest of Astoreth Phoenician deity, married Aliab, King of Israel, that Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel, a Phoenician princess, married Ahaziah, King of Judah, when the Phoenician paganism became the State religion of Judah.

The monotheistic Israelites despised their polytheistic kinsmen on account of their worship, hence we read that "the Israelites had no dealings with the Samaritans" who had accepted the Phoenician worship. The "good Samaritan" was most probably a Phoenician in religion, hence his kindly action to the distressed Jew was remarkable. Note also the argument of the Phoenician woman as to the place where God should be worshipped, the religion of the Phoenician Canaanites being purely material, while that of the Israelites was spiritual.

"The Temple of Solomon, though modelled in sonic respects upon the 'Tabernacle of the Congregation,' must be regarded as essentially a Phoenician building, at once designed by Phoenician and the work of Phoenician hands " (Rawlinson).

The two pillars are considered to have been identical with the sacred pillars reared in the Phoenician Temples of Baal.

See also Religion of the Semites, by Robertson Smith.

As to Phoenician and Carthaginian influence, both ascertained and conjectured, in Demerara, Mexico, Peru, Yucatan, North America, Polynesia, and Europe, see Wilmot's Monomotapa and various works on Phoenicia.

Professor A. H. Keane, London, dealing with Dr. Peters' theory connecting the ancients of Rhodesia with Egyptian Hamites, states: "Nothing so far has been advanced to upset the view put forward by the late Mr. Theodore Bent that the first colonisers and exploiters of South Zambesi were not Egyptian Hamites but Semites, most probably Himyarites or Phoenician Canaanites, or both." Professor Keane cites Herr B. Moritz in the Verhuandlungen der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde, Berlin, 1896 pp. 2-9, who strongly opposed Dr. Peters' conclusions. Dr. Peters has since been converted to the theory of the Himyaritic occupation of Rhodesia.


  1. The Ancient Ruins of Rhodesia by R N Hall and W G Neal. Second edition, 1904. Published by Methuen & Co, 36 Essex street W.C., London.

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