Butua and the End of an Era

The effect of the collapse of the Kalanga state on ordinary citizens. An analysis of behaviour under stress

Catharina van Waarden
Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology


The Kalanga state Butua, which had dominated the Zimbabwe plateau (south central Africa) for four centuries, collapsed in the 1830s due to repeated difaqane invasions, and its population became subject to Ndebele invaders. This work is a study of how thefarming population coped with the stresses brought by these events and how this is manifest in the archaeological remains. A model of group behaviour under stress suggests that, with increasing stress, group solidarity at first increases, but later decreases: a series of hypotheses based on this model guides this study. The first section of the research presents a reconstruction of the ‘Butua’ state based on oral and documentary evidence as well as archaeological research in Botswana. The second part combines information from historical sources with archaeological evidence from two villages at Domboshaba to reconstruct events and conditions in northeastern Botswana during the turbulent 19th century.