Luanze Earthworks

Luanze was the site of an important trading fair, called a feira, which was established in the 1580’s and sited on the eastern edge of the Makaha gold belt which extends south down to the Makaha and Ruenya Rivers. Makaha gold belt has been the site of numerous ancient gold workings which have been mined for centuries; local people continue to pan the Ruenya River for alluvial gold in the current recession with the lack of employment opportunities.


The Luanze site was rediscovered in late 1964 by a prospector, Mr N.J. van Wyk who was gold panning in the vlei below the site and found not only gold, but small glass beads. The presence of gold was puzzling, as the local quartz veins carried no gold, and further; an analysis of the gold found it to be both alluvial and mined. Clearly, this gold had been brought to the spot for the purpose of trade.

The site

The main features of the earthwork site are two separate rectangular earthwork enclosures. The earthworks are south of Masarakufa store, 100 to 150 metres south of the A2 road.

The larger enclosure had a bank around it originally 1.5 metres high (5 feet) and 3.6 metres wide (12 feet) which was surrounded by an outer ditch 1.2 metres deep (4 feet) and 3.4 metres wide (11 feet) The sides of the enclosure are straight, but measure from 94.5 metres (310 feet) to 108.5 metres (356 feet) in length, and 72.5 metres (238 feet) to 85.3 metres (280 feet) in width. The enclosure is orientated at 347⁰ (i.e. 33⁰ west of true north) and contains in the approximate centre of each wall, rectangular bastions 7.9 metres (26 feet) wide, which project out 5.5 metres (18 feet) Much of the enclosure is barely visible with the erosion of the banks and silting up of the ditches and there is no obvious entrance and no visible trace of structures within the enclosures. On the west, a small stream has eroded and taken the ditch for its bed down to the Mbuna Stream.

The smaller enclosure is 36.5 metres (120 feet) to the west of the larger enclosure. It’s orientation is the same, it also has four bastions projecting from the centre of each wall, the ditch surrounds each of the banks, except for the south where there is a terrace 7.6 metres (25 feet) wide between bank and ditch. Within the enclosure there is a low central mound 12 metres (40 feet) in diameter and three circles 3 metres (10 feet) in diameter of stone schist slabs set vertically in the ground at 0.6 metre (2 feet) intervals, with another schist slab in the centre, probably the foundation frame for huts floors.

Why Visit

Any sixteenth map of Africa marked Luanze feira prominently, often spelled Luanche as below, as though it was a large inland town. The reality though, was very different and the site probably never had more than a dozen traders of mixed race, or an African merchant class, the Vashambadzi and their families who worked for the Portuguese. The Portuguese writer, Pedro Barreto de Rezende, said in 1634: “The fort of Luanze, where the Portuguese hold a market, is in the lands of Mokaranga, 40 leagues from Tete. This fort has a church, served by a Dominican friar who administers the sacraments to the Christians who dwell there, or pass through.” One of the oldest European settlements in Zimbabwe, established in the 1580’s, abandoned 1693. Zimbabwe Monuments, Galleries And Museums Very easy access, being on the A2 between Mutoko and Nyamapanda.