The Mapungubwe Hill Cultural landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site has some well-preserved remains of the lives of the ruling class.  Excavations began in the 1930s with the discovery of 27 graves, of which three contained gold items.  

An elderly person was interred with more than 100 gold wire bracelets, another with a gold scepter.  Buried in traditional Iron Age style, seated, facing west.  A small gold rhino was also found, made from a wooden core with thin gold sheets secured with gold tacks.  Fragments of two other gold rhinos were found in the graves.  The significance is unknown.

Mapungubwe’s decline was likely due to aridity around 1300 CE and the population dispersed who traditional farming could not sustain them.  This is also believed to have contributed to the rise of the Great Zimbabwe north of Mapungubwe although it is believed both kingdoms existed for at least a century.


Rock Churches of Lalibela

For 1,000 years Christian pilgrims traveled to the rock hewn churches at the holy site of Lalibela.  The eleven churches were sculpted over centuries.  The best known, the church of St George is shaped like a crucifix.

Lalibela’s churches are monolithic, carved from the mountain so that they are completely detached, each is made from a single block of rock.

The largest is House of Medhane Alem.

Some of the interiors of the churches are decorated with striking friezes of biblical scenes and bas-reliefs.


Kingdom of Aksum

Aksum was a thriving city from the first to seventh centuries CE.  The original inhabitants were an Iron Age society with cultural ties to the Arabian Peninsula.  The kingdom of Aksum invaded Meroe around 350 CE when Meroe was in severe decline as trade had shifted to the southeast.

Aksum’s exports were many including agricultural products, ivory, gold, precious stones, salt and of course slaves.

Aksum traded,with Rome and Byzantium and as far as India.  They imported metal goods, glass, silks and spices.  Aksum minted its own gold, silver and copper coins from the third century which testifies to the kingdom’s wealth and commerce at home and abroad.

The fourth century ruler of Aksum, Ezana, adopted Christianity, replacing the kingdom’s polytheistic religion.

Aksum’s decline began around the sixth century, attributed to control of trade to a new Islamic caliphate in the Arabian Peninsula.

Only a small part of Aksum has been excavated.  Best known for its architecture and stelae.

The stele of Aksum was removed by Musolini and sent to Rome in 1937 but was returned to Ethiopia in 2005 and re-erected in 2008.

Africa Egypt


The ancient Egyptians knew Karnak as Ipet-Swt, “most select of places”.  Originally a local shrine dedicated to Amun, during continuous building from early Middle Kingdom to Roman times successive kings added to the complex, each attempting to outdo their predecessors.  Some demolished earlier monuments absorbing the stone blocks I their own construction.  

An example is pylon three built by, 18th dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III c. 1390-1353 BCE, where the rubble fill contained blocks of carved limestone from a chapel constructed by Senwosret I of the. Idle kingdom c.1956-1911 BCE.  Today this chapel is known as the White Chapel.

The Red Chapel constructed of red quartzite by pharaoh Hatshepsut c.1453-1458, which has been dismantled and reassembled.  It had been covered over probably due to Hatsheosut being a female pharaoh.

Construction of The Hypostyle Hall began by Rameses I and continued by his son Seti I.

Karnak has a series of granite obelisks erected by 18th dynasty Pharaohs.  They are cut from one piece of stone, tapering to the top inscribed with royal and religious texts and some entirely covered with gold foil.  Quarried from riverside quarries at Aswan, to cut, transport and erect an obelisk was an achievement and mark of powerful kingship.  One that had a flaw exposed during cutting can be seen today still lying I the quarry.

Africa People

Great Zimbabwe

The site covers about 7 sq km and is known for its stone houses, comprising about 1,000 residences.  The Hill Ruins are believed to be the oldest, the Great Enclosure dates from its heyday and the Valley Ruins. The Hill Ruins are the remains of a royal complex which included residential and ceremonial areas.  The outer perimeter walls are about 35 feet high  and nearly 20 feet thick in some places.  Some have decorative stonework in a herringbone pattern.    

The main structures date from about 1000-1450 CE.  Excavations performed in the earth 20th century damaged some areas and have complicated the chronology.  Excavations continue using radiocarbon dating of midden materials.  Oriental ceramics and glass beads from Persia have been found and aid in dating different locations.  

The Great Enclosure, a circular area which measures 820feet across, with two perimeter walls, contains a conical tower 33 feet tall with no apparent function.  It’s purpose is still being debated.

The reason for decline is not clear but may be due to environmental factors and over exploitation of resources, climate change or water shortages.  Also under consideration are shifting trade patterns and/or political unrest. 

The first scientific excavations were conducted by David Randall-MacIver in 1905.  He concluded that the site was medieval in origin and linked to forebears of the local African population.  Gertrude Caton Thompson, who excavated in 1929 insisted that the site was built and occupied by Iron Age ancestors of the Shona people.

Africa Art Egypt

Abu Simbel

Since 1955 UNESCO has been working with Egypt’s Documentation Center to record Nubian temples.  In 1959 Egypt proposed that UNESCO led a campaign to save the monuments of Nubia.  Egypt would provide a sum of money but would need much assistance.  

A planning conference was held in October 1959 at the Nubian Documentation Center where experts in archaeology, geology, engineering and architecture attended.  

Abu-Simbel Monument

At the end of the conference it was announced the first monuments to be addressed would be the Temples of Abu Simbel.  Cut into the cliffs near the second cataract these monuments were built to honor Rameses II and his chief wife Nefertari around 1279-1213BCE.

The UNESCO council earmarked $110,000 for research into this project.  These temples were the last to be saved because of the immensity of the project which took over two years to complete.  The work was done by Swedish firm VBB (AB Vattenbyggnadsbyrån), who in a feat of spectacular engineering, cut and moved the temples, elevating them more than 200 feet above their original position so to be saved from the water.

Abu-Simbel Monument

The Campaign officially began March 8th 1960 when UNESCO Director General Vittorino Veronese launched the appeal from Paris.  The Work on the Aswan High Dam began January 9th, already they were racing the rising waters. The United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization collected funds from over 100 countries, and skilled engineers were sent from more than 50 nations to help, saving for future generations to see and study these monuments of Ancient Nubia.

$65,690.64 was collected through philatelic campaigns whereby about 50 nations issued stamps with Nubian motifs paying part of the revenue (for example first day issues and covers) to the campaign.  Though the amount collected was small, it produced a significant promotion.

100% of the monies collected through the sale of first day covers produced by the various governments went directly toward saving these monuments.  Stamps were semi-postals, some were overprinted and a “Tourist Tax” instituted by Egypt (US$2.00) went toward saving Abu Simbel.  The “TT” is still there, paying for upkeep.

Africa Art

African Cave Paintings in Botswana

Tsodilo cave, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, has one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world. Also referred to as the “Louvre of the Desert”.  It has more than 4,500 paintings preserved in an area of about 10 sq km of the Kalahari Desert.  Tsodilo has a unique spiritual significance to the local population as well as being a unique record of human settlement over millenia.

Giraffe from Tsodilo cave

The archaeological record of the area dates back thousands of years for painting and rituals.  It is estimated that the hills contain more than 500 sites, representing human habitation.  The rock art is linked to local hunter-gatherers. It is believed that ancestors of the San people created paintings at Tsodilo and there is also evidence that Bantu people were also responsible for some of the art.  Some paintings have been dated to be 24,000 years old

The Tsodilo Hills consist of a number archaeological sites. Two of them, known as Divuyu and Nqoma, have been dated to Early Iron Age.  Excavations from the caves contained pieces of jewelry and metal tools, indicating that these areas may have been iron smelting areas, making them one of the few Early Iron Age sites in southern Africa with evidence of metal working.

Ostriches Tsodilo Hills

In justification of inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the area has been used for many thousands of years by humans who have left traces of their presence in their rock art.  Tsodilo has been settled by successive human communities for many millenia and the area has symbolic and religious significance for the human communities who continue to inhabit the area.

Africa Prehistoric

Tchadanthropus (uxoris)

Tchadanthropus (uxoris) is the subject of debate as to where the fossil remains belong in the scientific classification system. There are arguments for it being an archaic Homo sapien (heidelbergensis), a synonym of Homo erectus and some favor a Homo sapiens classification. Still others indicate it should be considered an unidentified specimen as its condition doesn’t allow for accurate measurement even though it’s estimated between 700,000 to 900,000 years old.

Many countries have both surface mail and airmail services available for international destinations. The postage fee of course differs, airmail being more expensive as it arrives quicker than surface mail. Examples of the stamp used to pay these rates follow.

Chad surface letter

Surface rate cover dated November 7, 1967 from Baibokoum, Chad to Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Chad stamp

Airmail rate cover dated April 5, 1968 from Moundou, Chad to Ottawa, Canada.