Indian Tumbler
Indian Tumbler

Portuguese objects in Ancient Mining in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and adjacent areas

Written by Roger Summers (Senior Keeper of Antiquities, National Museums of Rhodesia, 1969) and Chris Dunbar


Carved Ivory

BAY HORSE Mine, Chikari (29)¹: The most beautiful of all relics from the ancient workings is the delightful carving. (picture below)

This was found at depth in an ancient working on the above mine and given to the miner’s children as a play thing. It was rescued from its ignominious usage by Capt. R.H.R. Stevenson and given to the National Museum, Bulawayo.

The British Museum reported that this was Portuguese colonial work, most probably Goanese, executed in the seventeenth or eighteenth century (Summers 1950). It appears to be a copy, at third or fourth hand, of a carving in Seville Cathedral. (1)

(information from Mr. P.S. Garlake.)

Abraham, in a paper on the district known to the Portuguese as Maramuca and which he identified as Rimuka near Umsweswe River (the area numbered 39 in this study), has suggested that this may have been the property of the Portuguese trader living near the present Hartley and looted when the area was overrun by Changamire in 1690 (Abraham, 1961). In 1867, Thomas Baines was told by Shona informants that the ruins of an old house could still be seen.

The ruins are no longer known but probably exist somewhere in the thick bush in this area, unless some farmer or miner has knocked them down for the sake of the stone. Persistent enquires by Monuments Commission inspectors continued over several years, were rewarded in June 1965 by the discovery of earthworks of Portuguese type about five miles south-west of BAY HORSE Mine: the statuette probably came from this site. (Garlake, 1967)*

Indian metalwork

SALLY Mine, Gwanda (58)¹: a brass tray was found many years ago in an ancient working on this mine and was lent temporarily to the National Museum through the good offices of Dr. H. Johnson of Gwanda.

Drawings and rubbings were submitted to the National Museum of Western India, Bombay, whose authorities reported that it was of a type, still being made, which was first produced about the eighteenth century.*

*extracts from pages 129 – 132 in the above publication.

¹ refers to mining areas in the above publication.

(1) (information from Mr. P.S. Garlake.)



QUAGGA Mine, Odzi (15)¹: Schofield (1925) mentioned the foregoing coin and also an English silver sixpence of Elizabeth I dated 1572 which was found 40ft. below the surface in the filling of an old stope.

The Elizabeth sixpence was perhaps a Portuguese import, for there was a steady, if small, trade in Manicaland gold from about 1570 to 1700 according to Portuguese records.

*extracts from pages 129 – 132 in the above publication.

¹ refers to mining areas in the above publication.


Indian Metalwork

D TROOP Mine, Angwa River (13)¹: a small brass tumbler (picture below) was found at a depth of 40 ft. in the above mine long ago by Mr. Needham.

A photograph and rubbing of the decoration were submitted to the prince of Wales Museum (now National Museum of Western India) in Bombay in 1953 and a report by that museum stated that it was of Hindu, probably Gujerati, work of the fourteenth – fifteenth century. It is now in the National Museum, Bulawayo. The little brass Indian tumbler is of particular interest for, although it does not date the D TROOP working, it is indicative of Indian interest in the Rhodesian gold trade in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The other Indian imports are less impressive but it is worth noting that although a few examples of pre-nineteenth century exotic metalwork are known from other Rhodesian sites, nothing but Indian metalwork appears in old mines. *

*extracts from pages 129 – 132 in the above publication.

¹ refers to mining areas in the above publication.

About Marco Ramerini

I did historical research on the history of geographical exploration and colonialism, particularly on the spice islands, the Moluccas. I have designed and written some internet sites including the site dedicated to the history of geographical exploration and colonialism. Then the site dedicated to my region: Tuscany. As well as many other travel sites in different languages. Traveler, writer of online tourist guides. I research and write about history. Finally I am passionate about astronomy and photography.