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March 29th, 2010
Noted archeologist to speak at Texas State


The mortarless stone walls inside the Great Enclosure which is part of the Great Zimbabwe ruins.


One of the most intriguing places in the world may be the country of Zimbabwe, home to Victoria Falls and some of the most remarkable archeological sites, notably Great Zimbabwe from which the country now takes its name. Thomas Huffman, a leading authority on Southern Africa’s Iron Age societies, will speak at Texas State on April 6 at 7 p.m. in Centennial Hall 157. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Huffman’s speech, “Mapungubwe and Great Zimbawe: Pathways to Social Complexity in Southern Africa,” is sponsored by the University Lecture Series. The ruins of Great Zimbabwe are spread over 1,700 acres and date back to the 11th century, although the area had settlements since 350 A.D. The questions of why and how Great Zimbabwe came to be have generated a good deal of academic archeological debate in which Huffman is at the forefront.

Professor emeritus of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, Huffman has worked in Zambia, Zimbabwe and South African for more than 40 years. He has conducted excavations at many of the Iron Age sites and has written a number of books on Iron Age symbolism and culture in South African societies.

Raised in Texas, Huffman took his PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois. He served for 35 years as the chair of the archeology department at Witwatersrand.  His most recent book,”Handbook to the Iron Age: The Archeology of Pre-colonial Farming Societies in Southern Africa,” was published in 2007.

Notable, also, is the suppression of scientific and archeological data, which came to light in the 1970s, when the former government of what was then Rhodesia (now, Zimbabwe), wished to deny that such a society and buildings had African origins.

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3 thoughts on “Noted archeologist to speak at Texas State

  1. There are too many unanswered questions to dismiss completely the possibility of a Semitic origin for the Ancient Zimbabwean Civilization. I have tried to summarize the evidence in – and even wrote to Huffman inviting his comment on my reference to him in note 5 of that article – but he did not reply.

  2. Like the eminent ethnologist and Archaeologists Professors Gayre, Keane, Dart, Galloway, and many other distinguished scholars too numerous to mention here, I am constantly being astounded by the intransigence of the pro-Bantu school of archaeologists such as Thomas Huffman for turning a blind eye to the glaring mountain of facts concerning the origin of the Zimbabwean civilisation. As Gayre commented in his book of the same name, what is so astonishing is that, faced with a huge complex of irrigation terraces at Inyanga, and the size of the megalithic sites that required such an agricultural organisation to feed their inhabitants, anyone should have irresponsibly plunged into the development of a theory of independent Bantu evolution of this civilisation. It is completely out of character of the Bantu and has no justification from other negroid parts of Africa, past or present, Irrigation is limited to the Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Amerindian peoples. The Bantu have never possessed the technical knowledge nor expended labour in such massive enterprises. Irrigation is a characteristic of ancient Egypt, Arabia, Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilisation, of Iran, Turkestan, Syria and the Mediterranean countries. Of Malaysia, Indo-China, China and the Meson-American civilisations. In the face of such facts, says Professor Gayre, sufficient warning was provided for those who have sought to deny the obvious and create this Bantu Myth. The Bantu themselves did not create the Myth. They have never made such claims. It is the work of modern European writers. Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, a Zulu author and historian, has written two large works on the traditions of the Bantu, and categorically states his people were not responsible for this civilisation, which he attributes to a white people with long hair he calls the Ma-iti.

    This is only a very small part of the evidence accumulated in opposition to the bantu theory postulated by Thomas Huffman. The massive, precisely structured and cambered wall of the Great Enclosure itself provides sufficient evidence of non-Bantu construction. The Bantu have never built stone walls of this magnitude and precision. The local Bantu inhabitants of the area have never claimed ownership, and have stated that the walls were built when the stones were still soft.

    The refusal to accept these facts, and the blatant misinterpretation of other reported facts by the pundits of the present theory is hard to believe. The obsession to prove a theory, can become so great that evidence is twisted, sometimes even unconsciously, to justify the thesis. The Bantu-Zimbabwe theory , says Professor Gayre, will rank as the greatest error of misinterpretation of our times, and will require much accurate scientific work before archaeology will recover from the harm which has been done.

    There is now a growing movement in opposition to the entrenched Bantu theory. An opposition dedicated to truth , the evidence, and the facts, and not expediency. For the benefit of students and researches everywhere encyclopedias such as Wikipedia and Britannica need to acknowledge the existence of an opposing theory and give it due credence, and not simply dismiss it as having no substance, as Thomas Huffman is wont to do. We do not need the myth being perpetuated in Texas for reasons of what we can only surmise must be self interest. Like the man in the movie said. “Show me the money!” And I say to Thomas Huffman, “show us the facts, the whole facts, and nothing but the facts! And please make sure they are pertinent to the ancient history, and not the modern one.”

    Jerold Richert – author

  3. Who were the builders of the Great Zimbabwe the largest most intact ancient temple in the southern hemisphere? Tens of thousands of pages have been written on this still controversial question. Anyone trying to make sense of the subject has to plough through vague references by Romans, mention of mysterious places by ancient Arabs, manuals by early Portuguese mariners on their way to India or missives to the kings by Mozambique minions. The old European explorers and ‘naturalists’ of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s wrote reams on the topic. To cap it all, the new religion of the world, science, has given us archaeology – and there has been no shortage of well funded high priests digging up the ruins and proclaiming they have proof of the truth.

    I, like many, have been fascinated since childhood by the riddle of the Great Zimbabwe. As I grew up I read everything on the subject that I was able to lay my hands upon. One day during the 1970’s I came across a fascinating and well written book, The Origins of the Zimbabwe Civilisation, by Prof. Robert Gayre. It contradicted everything that was being disseminated by the pro-bantu school of thought. I was fascinated. I had read The Rise and Fall of Zimbabwe, by Prof. T. N. Huffman, head of Archaeology at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and one of the leading proponents of the theory that the Shona people built the Great Zimbabwe. Writing of a 1906 Bantu interpretation as the builders of the Great Zimbabwe Huffman said, ‘Randall-MacIver developed the theory that Zimbabwe was ‘essentially African’ over sixty years ago. It has been reaffirmed with every Iron Age excavation in Rhodesia and never seriously scientifically questioned. I was intrigued to find Huffman did say: ‘MacIver’s interpretation was strenuously rejected by the public – a rejection still found today’. He even admitted ‘- the British Association commissioned Gertrude Caton-Thompson in 1929 to resolve the debate. She vindicated MacIver in most respects, particularly his ‘essentially African’ interpretation and mediaeval dating. The debate over the origins of the Zimbabwe culture, however, involves emotion and politics as well as scientific enquiry, and adherents of the exotic hypothesis were not convinced.’
    Here was a man with seemingly impeccable credentials being economical with the truth or lying, for he made no mention of the brilliant, incisive and scathing work on the subject by Prof. Gayre. It was a startling piece of dishonesty which I was to learn was only one of many.

    Many people do still question or reject the Iron Age Bantu Shona theories of many modern scientists. There are good reasons for this, the first being that the theories of Prof. Huffman and others like him, with their strenuous efforts to peddle ideas disguised as scientific truth, i.e. that Shona society today is a version of what pertained six hundred or more years ago, simply do not sit well or make common sense to those who know Africa and are quick to see through scientific mumbo-jumbo. The second being the fact that Huffman and others of his school of thinking have generally branded theories opposed to their own as polemics or racist and have more or less consistently ignored history and the oral traditions and claims of the enigmatic Lemba people – the Black Jews of Africa.

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