There are a number of caves in Uganda. Historically, many of them served as shelters for Iron Age man and the Bushmen. The prime caves for tourism are easily accessible as they occur most in the western and southern parts of the country.
Most earthworks of Uganda are characterised primarily by ditches up to five metres deep and about a metre wide at the bottom, sloping outwards to several metres wide at the top. The ditches often extend for several hundred metres in a curved line that sometimes form a semi–circle. Some ditches are associated with embankments formed from the earth and rock removed from within the ditch. Many ditches are crossed by earthen causeways. A couple of sites posses, artificial mounds apparently associated with the ditches. The earthworks have been found in various locations: some are on or close to the southern banks of rivers; some around, at least to some extent, a hill, though the hill itself may not be a particularly prominent feature of the local terrain; others are located on a flat ground. Below are some of the many archaeological sites Uganda has to offer
Bigo Bya Mugyenyi Archaeological Earthworks Uganda
This is a 10sq km series of archaeological earthworks with an inner royal enclosure built on a small hill and used to protect Mugyenyi’s cattle; It has many ditches up to 5m-deep and by far the largest and most important earthworks excavated by the Bachwezi people; a two-reign dynasty which was short lived. These were Ndahura and Wamala. The oral traditions also associate the Bachwezi with the introduction of the Long-horned cattle. Bigo bya Mugyenyi is lying at the confluence of Katonga and Kakinga Rivers. Oral traditions suggest that the earthworks were originally created to protect the eastern extreme of the Bachwezi Empire, but that towards the end of Wamala’s reign, when the Bachwezi status quo was threatened by the arrival of the Luo upstarts from Sudan, the king himself moved to Bigo and made it his capital. Bigo bya Mugyenyi literally means ‘Fort of the Stranger’.
It is said locally that Mugyeni was the name of the Bachwezi prince who was responsible for excavating the earthworks.
Munsa Earthworks of Uganda
The Munsa earthworks are the second largest in Uganda. They consist of a maze of deep trenches; said to have been constructed as defensive structures, surrounding Bikegete Hill, a prominent granite outcrop riddled with tunnels and caves. The name Munsa is derived from the Runyoro expression Mu-ensa, meaning ‘place of trenches’.
Munsa is linked to the Bachwezi, and the oral tradition responsible, is vindicated by archaeological evidence suggesting that the earthworks and occupation at Bikekete Hill date back to the 14th Century. Archaeologists also concur with the traditional convention that the ruler of Munsa lived within Bukekete Hill, in a cave large enough to seat 50 people. It is probable that the surrounding earthworks, which are up to 7m wide and 3m deep and were excavated in a V shape making them difficult to cross, were fortifications to protect the rocky royal stronghold.
Recent archaeological studies at Bukekete Hill discovered an intact clay furnace used for smelting iron, glass beads, suggesting some sort of trade link with the coastal Swahili and what a royal burial ground was presumably. One of the skeletons at Bukekete was discovered beneath a second, inverted Skelton. This, almost certainly, would have been a royal burial – it was the rather grisly custom that a king should be buried below one of his servant, the later buried alive in order that he could take after his master.
Ntusi Earthworks of Uganda
Ntusi site is different from all other earthworks since it lacks the ditch system. It boosts a large basin surrounded by mounds which are often referred to as dams, as well as other mounds elsewhere on the site. Some of the mounds at Ntusi are older than the ditch systems at other earthwork sites. The most notable of the mounds, are locally known as the male and female. Excavations have shown them to be a massive pile of bones, pottery shards and other waste material: they are huge refuse heaps, deposited over a 300-year period during the first half of the second millennium AD. Their importance has always been recogonised by more recent inhabitants; the name Ntusi means mounds. There are several scraped depressions around the village, the largest of which, the 20m-deep Bwogero depression, lies 150m from the male mound. Bwogero was probably a part of extensive irrigation system, traces of which exist today.
Semwama Hill Caves of Uganda
This flat-toped granite outcrop contains a network of shelters and caves that are traditionally held sacred by the local people and also provided them refuge against invaders. The most accessible cave consists of two main chambers, known locally as “ebidongobo” or waiting rooms which are sometimes used as an overnight shelter for cattle. Within the chambers lies an ancient Bachwezi shrine where offerings of leaves, seeds and straw can still be seen. The cave is said to have been where Kateboha of Munsa once held council with his elders and advisors, sitting above them on the flat slab of stone in the main chamber. From this opening you can scramble up a succession of rock chimneys, assisted in one or two places by rough ladders, then a near-vertical rock face to the top of the hill.
Garama Cave – (For Underground Caving in Uganda)
The Garama Cave of Uganda in Kisoro- Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a lava result. Garama measures 342 metres from entry to exit and 14 metres deep, it is the most ideal for Underground Caving in Uganda. Its history in the past 2000 years cannot be told so well without the inclusion of the Batwa Pygmy people of Uganda; the crafty Batwa are the most ancient inhabitants of the interlacustrine Africa, and easily distinguished from other Ugandans by their unusually shot Stature – seldom exceeds 1.5 metres in height – and paler, more bronzed complexion. Garama Cave which was covered by the forest was used for retreat by the ancient Batwa after fights and raids on their Bantu ethnicity neighbours.
Nsongezi Rock Shelter- Stone Age Site in Uganda
This is one of the most important Stone Age sites in Uganda. A series of excavations in the shelter have yielded a large number of stratified pottery shards dating form around AD 1000 into the 19th century, collectively representing the full range of styles characteristics of the period. Nsongezi Rock Shelter is located along the Kagera River, being neighboured by Kansyoke Island which is also a late Stone Age site
Amabere Ga Nyinamwiru Caves of Uganda
The stalactites and stalagmites which met in the middle, strongly support this cave. Local tradition has it that whoever touches these formations will get lost in the caves or be visited by misfortune. Amabere ga Nyinamwiru literally means Breasts of Nyinamwiru – and refers to a live stalactite formation supposedly shaped like a pair of breasts. According to tradition, Nyinamwiru was the daughter of a king, so beautiful that no man could leave her alone and constantly plagued by marital proposals from unsuitable suitors. Bukuku –the king cut off Nyinamwiru breasts in the hope they would reduce her charms, but even this was not enough to deter his lovely daughters admirers, so eventually he hid her away in the caves. Whilst there, Nyinamwiru was impregnated by the Batembuzi king Isaza to give birth to Ndahura, the future founder of the Bachwezi dynasty, and –lacking breasts herself –She fed the infant with cloudy limestone ‘milk’ that drips from the breast-like stalactites.
Nyero Rock Paintings of Uganda
Nyero Rock Paintings are strongly recommended for anybody with interest in archaeology or human prehistory. The paintings are most cases monochromatic, consisting –typically either red or white. The site consists of three discrete panels, all of which lie in a few hundred metres of each other. The most impressive is panel Two, which covers a 6m-high rock face reached via a narrow cleft between two immense boulders. At least 40 sets of red concentric circles are partially or wholly visible on the face, as is one ‘acacia pod’. At the top right are the paintings of three Zebras.
The most striking naturalistic figures on the panel are two large canoes, of which one is about 1.5m long and evidently carrying people. Panel One is somewhat less elaborate: six sets of white concentric circles, as well as a few ‘acacia pods’ figure panels Three consists of just one white set of concentric circles on the roof of a low rock shelter. The Nyero Rock Paintings must be at least 300 years old, and are possibly much older. There are similar rock paintings in Kaberamaido, Karamoja, Pallisa, Ngora, Kakoro, Obwin Rock, Nshenyi, Lolui Island (Lake Kyoga) and Dolwe Island (Lake Victoria).
These are just a few among the many Archaeological sites one can visit in Uganda. Others include; Nyabingi Cult, Kibero Salt Gardens, Nakayima Tree, Sempaya Hot Springs, Kasubi Tombs, Mparo Tombs, Jinja Kaloli Caves, Ngarama Cave, Nyakasura Cave, name it.
If you are interested in an archaeological sites tour, please contact us and we will tailor one.