MUNSA EARTHWORKS “BIKEGETE”
Munsa earthworks is a fascinating ancient archaeological site located in south eastern part of Bunyoro, this amazing site is situated 5 kilometers North-west of kakumiro township in Bugangaizi country in kakumiro district. Munsa earthworks is the second largest earth works in Uganda, the name MUNSA is derived from a Runyoro word MU-ESA meaning place of trenches. Munsa earthworks site is made up of a network of trenches, the earth works are v-shaped in nature with 7 meters width and 3 feet depth, the earthworks are recognized by a rocky hill known as Bikegete by the locals. Bikegete hill is enclosed within an earthworks system of ancient ditches which are believed to have been created between the periods of 1400-1650 AD.
Munsa earthworks consists of a series of
- A granite out crop with rock shelters
- Ditches of varying depth and with width, these ditches have depth ranging from 10-15 feet with width ranging from 6 to 10 feet
- The inner most trench also referred to as Trench A which surround Bikegete hill
- The outer most trench also referred to as trench C, this trench is speculated to have been used as a defense feature to protect site inhabitants (the said bachwezi) form hostile invaders. Studies indicate that the ditches would offer little protection against people wanting to evade the site, peter RobertShaw an archeological research suggests that the outer ditch was used to prevent elephants from entering the site.
- The vast area between trench C and trench A is said to have been used for plant cultivation and for livestock
The process which resulted into the formation of these earth works or their architects is still much unknown, though there is no clear concrete evidence speculations refer to the site being the works of the bachwezi demi gods which is practically a recent development in search for the origin of the earth works. According to the bachwezi legendary tales, the earthwork and its trenches were excavated by the bachwezi demi gods as a way of safe guard themselves and their community from possible invasion and attacks from outsiders.
The Munsa earthworks enclose a hill called Bikegete hill which is also an attractive feature of its own in this site, according to previous research and archeological studies carried out on this hill reveal fascinating discoveries. In the hill things like intact clay furnace which was used during the process of iron smelting was discovered, a glass beads evidencing possible trade with coastal Swahili. There is a royal burial chamber which is evidenced by human skeletons which one underneath the other, according to the customs of the bachwezi people when a king died he was buried with a subject to take care of him in the afterlife. In the same hill there is also a cave which is said to have been a home to Kateboha a Chwezi prince.
Recent excavations and archeological studies further shades more light on the trenches, they indicate that Bikegete might have been occupied in early 9th century AD. On the study radiocarbon and luminescence were discovered indicating that the trenches of Munsa earthworks were originally dug in the period between 15th and 16 centuries AD though the age of some of the trenches are still unknown such as the outer ditch and trench C. The study goes on to suggest that Munsa trenches were inhabited until the late 17th century AD when they were abandoned, the abandonment of the trenches are speculated to have been caused by major economic, political and social factors that resulted into a shift in the patterns of settlement to the settlers of trenches forcing them to turn away from permanent settlement to nomadic kind of settlement.
The first archeological excavations at Munsa earthworks were conducted by Peter RobertShaw in 1988, during the excavation studies units of size ranging between six to sixteen square meters were excavated and placed at the foot hill of Bikegete hill for to be studied. The excavated units included potsherds, a fragment from a possible ceramic brazier, bone mallets, iron artifacts, grindstone, cattle teeth, a green glass bead and posthole. In 1994 another additional study was conducted by RobertShaw, 5 test pits of 1 square meter were excavated. Other excavations were conducted in the top of Bikegete hill and south of the hill in the area between trenches A and C, in this excavation pieces of iron, iron slag and bones were excavated.
Though the above excavations were carried out, they were not major excavations as a major excavation of the site was carried out in 1995 by RobertShaw. In this excavation an estimated 230 square meters of the site and test units were excavated within the ancient dishes that is in trench A and trench B, on top of Bikegete. The excavated items included postholes, pits of varying contents, burials and iron furnace and materials like potsherds, fired clay vessels, glass beads, pipe fragments, iron artifacts like beads, bracelets, razors, knives, spear butts, a possible hoe, a bell, cattle bones and teeth. In trench A and Trench B radiocarbon dates were excavated from charcoal samples which date between AD 1400 and 1650 AD.
Munsa earthworks are the perfect destination for cultural enthusiast tourists, this site is one of the most exceptional tourist destinations in Uganda, when your visit this site your will enjoy the beautiful rock of about 2 meters deep. The rock is famous for the kateboha’s beer pot who was a king of the Bachwezi Empire, the pot is very significant to the bachwezi culture as the site is has become the most active shrines in the Bachwezi cult. Many people visit this site for healing and divine worshiping and tourists witness signs of early pottery for Stone Age evidenced by pieces of pots and other small pieces excavated during archeological studies.
A visit in Munsa earth works will offer you a unique cultural experience, in this site you will appreciate the creation of God and many legendary stories about the bachwezi people which are associated with Munsa earthworks.