The ensuing description of ||Khauxa!nas is as seen through the eyes of an engineer. Before describing the physical features and structural characteristics of the former settlement, however, some fundamental archaeological principles need to be referred to. Similarities to and possible connections with other ruins in the region will also be outlined as part of the process of situating ||Khauxa!nas in the wider southern African context.

In both an engineering and architectural sense the structural style developed at ||Khauxa!nas as we see it today appears to be the product of pure African traditions. Although the construction methods were very simple, the style of building has a powerful impact on the visitor, especially if one takes into account the logistical problems involved in creating such a settlement. It would seem apparent that a building project on this scale could only be undertaken by a community which was administratively well-organised, had at its disposal a sizeable labour force, and which had sufficient time to complete the project. A further first impression gained by the visitor to the site is the striking defensive nature of the outer ring wall, which must in its original untouched continuous sweep have been even more impressive than it is now. It is apparent that these are stone buildings of the type found consistently in sites of the southern African Iron Age [1].

Archaeology can be carried out by surface work as well as excavation. Before archaeological investigations of the ruins can be commenced it will be necessary to survey them through ground reconnaissance or by plotting from aerial photography. Provided a site is clearly defined and the investigator is familiar with the aerial photography interpretation, this type of survey can be of considerable value, especially for typological classification. For the initial identification and classification, of ||Khauxa!nas, use was made of aerial photographs on the scale 1:36,000, at which level any site of the size of this settlement would show up. Further identification of details could only be done tentatively, for reasons related to the structural characteristics of the buildings, making the use of larger scale aerial photographs essential. Aerial photographs on the scale of 1:6,000 were therefore obtained, enabling the settlement to be seen in great detail, from which enlargements on a 1:1,000 scale with half metre contours could be developed. On this scale visibility is even more enhanced, showing up any object larger than 200 mm or so. It is important that this photographic evidence is correlated with the actual object on the ground in order to ensure interpretation of the aerial photography is well founded. Ground control is also a prerequisite for computerised plotting while field work such as soil research, geology, hydrology and botany can also provide valuable additional information.

There are probably some 18,000 ruins scattered throughout the eastern areas of southern Africa, all located to the north of the Oranje River with the majority situated from 1,000 and 1,500 m above sea level [2]. These ruin sites fall into two distinct categories according to location. One may be called the " Zimbabwean" category, although it extends into Mozambique, northern Transvaal and Botswana, and the other the " Transvaal-Free State" category, which covers also parts of northern Natal, Botswana and Lesotho. These ruins probably also extend northwards to the mouth of the Zambezi River, so that the figure of 18,000 ruins may in fact be a considerable underestimate. No stone ruins have yet been located, however, north of the Zambezi in present-day Zambia.

Various ways of categorising ruined buildings in southern Africa have been attempted. In 1959, the architect Anthony Whitty made a classification of five ruin types in the Mashonaland district of Zimbabwe, of which category four comprised "hill refuge enclosures - defensible places, often with loopholes", a description applicable to Namibia's ||Khauxa!nas ruins [3]. Peter Garlake [4] attempted another classification of Zimbabwean ruins, based on his investigation of a large number of sites. His classification - comprising seven different categories - is based on construction methods, shapes of buildings, walling techniques and the decoration of structural elements. Categories one, four and six comprise complex enclosures of similar type, categories two and three different types of complex enclosures, while category five covers platform types. Finally, category seven denotes simple terraces and rudimentary walls. According to this classification, ||Khauxa!nas has features covering several different styles. In the next section, ||Khauxa!nas' structural building elements will be compared, where possible, to Garlake's ruin categories.

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Typical Building Elements at the ||Khauxa!nas Ruins
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

This ancient ruined site comprises not only different categories of ruin but also contains many distinct building elements such as walls, doorways, pathways and steps. The walls are erected straight on the ground and are not there just to hold up the fill of a platform [5]. Garlake categorises these structures collectively as "complex enclosures" according to his categories one, four and six.

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||Khauxa!nas Structures at the Northwestern Corner of the Mountain Plateau
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

The construction techniques employed at ||Khauxa!nas are to be found not only at ancient Zimbabwean settlements but also at the great majority of Iron Age ruins all over southern Africa. T.M.O'C. Maggs [6], for instance, describes the walling technique used at the Makgwareng ruins in the Orange Free State, which is similar to that employed at ||Khauxa!nas. Most of these walls are built with two outer faces consisting of large and rather regularly shaped sandstone slabs, with the intervening space filled by smaller size stones and rubble. The outer faces are inclined inwards, so that the wall becomes narrower towards the top. No specific foundation are found, but the basal stone slabs are in most cases of a particularly large size. The many entrances to ||Khauxa!nas are constructed out of large and carefully selected sandstone slabs or blocks to ensure that these entrance stones could not be easily displaced. The entrance corners do not demonstrate any particular smoothness from deliberate rounding or pounding, or from the rubbing caused by people and animals [7].

The wall ends at doorways and entrances tend to be more or less square. An unmortared solid wall in the ||Khauxa!nas style is a reasonably flexible building composition in structural terms and can absorb slight movements of ground or even minor earthquakes without danger of collapse. This is surely the reason why the ||Khauxa!nas walls are still in such a good structural condition. Some observable dilapidation can probably be attributed to the activities of baboons, who in searching for scorpions, their favourite delicacy, displace and throw the wall slabs about. In places the damage is so severe that only heaps of stones remain. Other demolished walls and structures are likely to be the result of human action, as is the case with the deliberate destruction of considerable numbers of structures during the erection of a boundary fence between the Schanzen 281 and Gugunas 301 farms.

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Details of the Walled Buildings in ||Khauxa!nas
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

Garlake's classification system has been applied to many ruins in southern Africa, especially to Venda buildings in Transvaal and to Sotho structures in Orange Free State and Lesotho, together with several in Botswana. It can be used to establish any similarities with the structural features of ||Khauxa!nas. One of the most interesting ruins with structural similarities to ||Khauxa!nas is the ruined town of Kurreechane in eastern Botswana. This was described by the Reverend John Campbell of the London Missionary Society in the 1820s as a town of approximately 16,000 inhabitants with "an extensive enclosure surrounded by a stone wall" [8]. Robert Moffat, another LMS missionary, described Kurreechane some nine years later, when it had already been destroyed by the Matabele King Mzilikazi during the Mfecane wars of the 1820s. He wrote: "The ruined towns exhibited signs of immense labour and perseverance, every fence being composed of stones, averaging five or six feet high, raised apparently without mortar, lime or hammer. Everything is circular, from the inner fences which surround each house to the walls which sometimes encompass the town", a striking similarity to ||Khauxa!nas [9].

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||Khauxa!nas Ruins on Highest Point on the Mountain: View to the West
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

Roger Summers [10] used a similar classification system for ruins to Garlake, describing his category six ruins as Sotho enclosures to be found in the south-west Transvaal, Natal and Orange Free State. He refers to corbelled (cantilevered stone slabs which will form a roof without any other support) huts which frequently have the appearance of drums. They are quite small, with tiny doors approximately 600 mm high and not much wider, which must have made them very uncomfortable to use [11].

Similar buildings with particularly small openings are found at ||Khauxa!nas. According to the local farmer these were doorways for the use of an extinct pygmy race [12]. But it is much more likely that these openings served as drainage outlets for the huts. Given the similarities of many of ||Khauxa!nas' structural features to those of Sotho-type enclosures, including large settlements like that of Kur reechane in Botswana, it needs to be asked whether a more direct connection between the Namibian site and the Sotho people could have existed at any stage?

Summers' "category eight ruins": terrace structures, and his "category nine ruins": fortified enclosures, all are to be found in north-eastern Zimbabwe and have, although to a lesser extent than his "category six ruins", similarities to ||Khauxa!nas. Features typical of "category eight ruins": pathways and monoliths, are also to be found at the Namibian settlement. These fortified enclosures with their sturdy ring walls have an entirely defensive function like those of ||Khauxa!nas, but in contrast "category nine enclosures" have no indications of occupancy inside the walling system [13].

If we are so bold as to speculate how the ||Khauxa!nas ruins could be related to those elsewhere in southern Africa, a feasible progression would comprise the development of simple terrace walls into more complex enclosures of the "Sotho category six" (||Khauxa!nas I), evolving into large defensive "category nine structures" (||Khauxa!nas II), as built by the Orlam Afrikaners in the late 18th century.

When a start is finally made with archaeological investigations, this may enable many questions to be answered. Maybe we will discover how people lived at the settlement, what they ate and what kind of livestock and other animals they kept. We might also learn about their social organisation, about trade and economics and their influence on the migration of early Namibian communities. If burial sites are located from the ||Khauxa!nas II and earlier periods we could even learn exactly what kind of people lived there [14].

In more recent times we might find out whether Jakob Marengo did in fact use this stronghold against the German colonialists and during what periods. But archaeology can tell us nothing about the languages spoken by groups prior to the existence of any historical records. It can only provide limited evidence about their religious beliefs or their political, social and legal systems. Information on these and other aspects, where historical evidence is lacking, could perhaps be obtained as a result of establishing the existence of trade and other links with contemporaneous settlements elsewhere in the southern African region [15].

The present lack of archaeological data for ||Khauxa!nas means we have no information on trade imports, which could tell us what importance the settlement may have had in commerce generally. There are no radio-carbon dates for ||Khauxa!nas, while oral traditions have not been evaluated and written records establish only that these stone buildings were erected or in use from 1770 onwards. Bearing this meagre archaeological information in mind, let us now have a closer look at ||Khauxa!nas and determine what can be discovered by first-hand observation.




||Khauxa!nas is situated 173 km to the south-east of Keetman shoop, Namibia's main southern town. To get there you take main road no. 26 which leaves trunk road no. 1/2 to the east, 73 km south of Keetmanshoop and 83 km north of Grünau. After following this road for 78 km, the visitor turns off to the south along district road 612 for just over 18 km and then comes across a track which turns off in a north-easterly direction on the farm Gugunas 301. It is necessary to proceed along this for about five kilometres over very rough ground negotiable only with a four-wheel drive vehicle. On reaching a point on the Bak River opposite ||Khauxa!nas mountain the intrepid visitor must continue by foot to reach the river crossing and thereafter ascend the path to the top of the mountain where the ruins of the ancient settlement are situated (approximate one kilometre walking distance). Apart from the difficulties involved in actually reaching ||Khauxa!nas, the visitor must seek permission for access from the owners of the Gugunas and Schanzen farms as the site has yet to be developed as a tourist attraction or placed under government supervision and declared a Namibian national document.

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The Great Karas Mountains from the West: Kuchanas: January 2004
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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Access Road to ||Khauxa!nas: Main Road 26: Through the Great Karas Mountains: January 2004
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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The Great Karas Mountains from the East: February 1987
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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The Great Karas Mountains from Aob (Gaitsanes): April 2003
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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Landscape east of ||Khauxa!nas: With View to the Great Karas Mountains in the West: Karas Region: April 2003
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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Landscape east of ||Khauxa!nas: With View to the Gurus River in the South: District Road 612: Karas Region: April 2003
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

Just to the south of ||Khauxa!nas mountain the Bak River makes a sharp bend. In an upstream direction follows a dark coloured lake. This lake is fed by continuous subterranean springs and provided the water supply for the mountain fortress above. On the north bank of the lake huge camelthorn trees cast a welcome shadow over the dark waters. According to one of the local farmers, the German occupying forces used these trees to execute a large number of Nama soldiers during the 1904-05 national resistance war, as we have previously noted. The rocks facing north of the trees form part of the vertical precipices which descend from the top of ||Khauxa!nas mountain to the river. Until a major flood of 1972 they were decorated with San ("Bushmen") paintings [16].

From here runs the ancient pathway leading up to the old Nama settlement. It threads through the vertical sandstone cliff face, often at a fairly steep angle, and although the pathway is unkerbed it is marked at frequent intervals by upright stones. At longer intervals the pathway is lined on both sides with stones which clearly mark out this early Namibian highway. This western approach would presumably been used as an internal road link for livestock and herdsmen rather than visitors from outside.

On reaching the crest of ||Khauxa!nas mountain we find ourselves outside the remains of the south wall, which runs parallel to the sheer cliff falling to the Bak River. The unassailable precipices are approximately 100 m high and 300 m long. Because much of this lower wall has partially collapsed it is difficult today to establish its previous extent. It may be assumed that due to the relative ease with which the western and southern parts of the fortress could have been defended, these sections of the wall were considerably lower than the well-preserved eastern and northern sections. The latter face the more easily accessible slopes from the plains to the east and north of the mountain, although outside the northern perimeter there is a wide stretch of broken rocky ground which shows no clear line of approach.

From our vantage point we have a splendid view over an extensive area of the mountain plateau with almost the entire length of the irregularly shaped outer ring wall and the many smaller buildings and enclosures inside the defensive perimeter clearly visible to the naked eye.

The size of the complex indicates that the builders of ||Khauxa!nas were truly engineers, given the high degree of structural and administrative skills required to erect buildings like these. We then can follow the remains of the outer wall to the west where we reach the highest point of the fortifications and from where we can overlook the whole plateau, which drops in a gentle slope from the west to the east. From this summit we can also see the entire better preserved wall on the north-eastern side of the mountain along which no loopholes can be observed. The complete and somewhat confusing pattern of irregularly curved walls can also be seen and it would appear that the central portions of certain residential complexes comprise important dwellings or enclosures. Much of the stone walling is corbelled, reflecting the abundant availability of flat sandstone slabs and scarcity of timber in the locality. Single steps to these dwellings can be made out but there are no flights of steps as in Great Zimbabwe. There is also no counterpart at ||Khauxa!nas to the well made structure of the Great Enclosure outer wall in the Zimbabwe ruins. It has now been incontestably established that the highly developed structural style at Great Zimbabwe was not the product of external, extra-African influences and the use of radio-carbon dating methods from the 1960s have overturned the hypothesis that much of the design inspiration could be attributed to Phoenician and Sabaean influences [17].

Highly sophisticated techniques such as levelled foundation floors, carefully trimmed facing stones, sloped walling faces and a variety of wall patterns and decorations are not to be found in this ancient Namibian town. But it remains remarkable that the building of ||Khauxa!nas was carried out without any mechanical contrivances, even most probably without even sledges. Simply to have conveyed the stones - weighing several hundred or even thousand kilograms apiece - to the site must have taken many years to start with. This in itself would appear to exclude any Arab, Portuguese or northern European external influences.

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View from the Highest Point to the East into the Direction of the Protection Wall: April 2003
Copyright of Photos: Dr. Klaus Dierks

It cannot be determined with any certainty one way or the other whether masonry tools, such as level, plumb line and set square which were standard in the medieval cultures of Europe and Asia, were employed at ||Khauxa!nas. But as is the case with many ruins elsewhere it is possible to work out how the walls and other buildings at ||Khauxa!nas were constructed by close observation, an aspect of particular interest to any civil engineer. For instance, in the case of the stone huts at the site it is not clear whether they may ever have had roofs. The use of thatch roofing would certainly have been feasible due to the abundance of reeds in the Bak River, but this is an aspect that would be difficult to be resolved by archaeological methods [18].

From this spot other unique features of ||Khauxa!nas can be observed, including some noteworthy monoliths standing nearly two metres high and vertically upright from the ground. These strange relics seem to be entirely unrelated to other buildings at the site and their purpose is a mystery. The only possible historical explanation is provided by Wesleyan missionary John A. Bailie who in the 1840s referred to "some curious tombs raised in memory of some of their (Nama) bravest warriors" and "these tombs are formed of choice stones from four to six feet long, placed perpendicularly with one end in the ground, and within a few inches of each other" ("also called "Good Luck Cairns" or in Nama Heitsi-Eibib or Haitse-aibeb) [19].

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View from the Highest Point to the West into the Direction of the Great Karas Mountains
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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Tombstones (Heitsi Eibeb) on the Eastern Side of the ||Khauxa!nas Mountain Fortress: April 2003
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

We can also see that the many self-standing walls were built directly onto foundations of natural rock to ensure stability. The ||Khauxa!nas walls normally take the form of pilled-pin (filled with smaller size stones) double walling which is usually virtually square in cross section with the faces almost vertical. They consist of irregular, natural stone slabs occasionally bisected to produce a flat surface and uncoursed. The faces were erected separately from the core which comprises a fill of smaller size stones than those used for the facing stones. The sandstone blocks have been selected according to size and thickness [20].

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||Khauxa!nas: Top of the Ruins: Details of Structural Elements: April 2003 and January 2004 (Top Row)
Copyright of Photos: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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||Khauxa!nas: View from the Top of the Mountain: Onto the Back River: April 2003
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

The enclosure interiors were in many instances paved with slabs of rock or took the form of massive courtyards for which drainage provision had to be made. As noted above many of the walls have small openings near their bottom edges. These are generally not more than 200 - 250 mm in width, sometimes square in shape and elsewhere of an upright rectangular dimension. These drainage culverts are covered throughout and similar outlets have also been found in the south-eastern section of the ring wall. Another feature encountered at the fortress summit is of more recent origin and reflects the deliberate neglect until now of the country's indigenous African heritage. The boundary fence between the two present day farms of Gugunas and Schanzen bisects the ruins at two points, one as already mentioned and the second further to the east. Where the fence cuts through the outer ring wall it has caused irreparable damage, with some of the rock slabs even broken off from their original structures and used to fasten the fence poles.

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Small openings near the bottom edges (drainage openings)
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

From the north-west corner of the mountain settlement we now follow the ring wall in a south-easterly direction. At intervals the wall is intersected by entrances which are essential to self-standing walls, especially the 1.5-2.0 m thick walls of ||Khauxa!nas. In consequence, faces have been built mostly at right angles to produce entrance jambs, often with large square blocks. The private dwellings near the outer wall contain many entrances, while radial walls to subdivide a family yard can also be identified. From this it would appear that neighbourly chats over the fence did not form part of the normal pattern of social relations at ||Khauxa!nas [21].

The perimeter walling formed at several places an integral part of the dwellings rather than a common but separate perimeter. Viewed in this way, the northern perimeter and parts of the eastern perimeter seem to consist of a series of contiguous household units, facing toward the central part of the enclosure and with one or more private entrances at the rear, through the perimeter wall. In a number of cases, these entrances are associated with a slightly curved interior wall which appears to have acted as a screen defining the dwelling area. The fact that stone mortars and pestles were frequently found in association with these screening walls suggest that they may have been used as cooking shelters, adjacent to the huts. In many cases middens of hearth and floor sweepings were found immediately outside the entrances, apparently confirming that the main perimeter wall itself served as the rear of the household dwelling area. Features within these loose clusters included both substantial hut circles and short lengths of screening walls, often associated with circular arrangements of loose stones that probably served to anchor the poles of reed mat houses. Some of the hut circles may, as mentioned earlier, have been roofed, but despite the size and permanence of the stone walling on the site, portable mat houses were probably the main form of shelter [22].

Sills or thresholds to retain a fill so as to counterbalance differences in height between the inside and outside of a building can be identified in certain places. No extant stairways are to be found, although the existence in the past of steps now fallen into disrepair cannot be ruled out. There is also no direct evidence as yet that any of the circular enclosures inside the ring wall might have functioned as a council chamber or for a similar official purpose, while raised structures such as chief's seat or royal throne have not so far been discovered. No latrines of any kind have been located either, although there is much in the way of rubble and ash remains, valuable sources for ar chaeological evidence and dating, outside the ring wall entrances and the complex inner hut enclosures in particular.

We follow now the wall in a generally southerly direction. Over most of its length the wall is little more than one metre in height, so that few throughband stones were needed to ensure its stability. Throughbands, or stones joining both sides of the wall, were used at the various points of entry, providing a well-finished appearance. The many entrances, of which there are 22 altogether, are not wide enough to let ox-wagons in. The degree of acculturation of the Orlams did not at this stage include ownership of ox-wagons, for none of the entrances could provide access of such cumbersome vehicles within the protective screen of the perimeter wall. Had the eighteenth century occupants of ||Khauxa!nas owned wagons, it is unlikely that they would have left them outside the wall.

Since there is no finishing course of coping stones, the wall tends to have the same thickness from the bottom to the top. At some points along the southern perimeter wall exceptionally long stones were placed upright against the wall, and while these are an impressive embellishment, they add nothing to the strength of the wall or to its effectiveness as a line of defence. In its siting, the wall appears to seek a compromise between contour and slope, wandering in an irregular way around the upper parts of the hill elevation. This apparent use of the sloping ground as a natural glacis would have greatly increased the effectiveness of the defence structure, placing an approaching force at a disadvantage and obviating the need for a higher defence wall [23].

Following the course of the defensive wall along the northern and eastern perimeters we come to the lowest point of ||Khauxa!nas mountain. Here the especially well-constructed ring wall section contains a smaller number of entrances and fewer interior buildings as well as no middens from the outside of the southern perimeter wall. The implication is that this portion of the perimeter wall was a communal boundary for the site as a whole, rather than a continuation of the rear, or outside of a series of household dwelling areas. This part of the complex could have acted as a reception point as it is here that most visitors can be expected to have arrived.

The southern approach traverses a wide stretch of open ground, with a gentle incline up to the perimeter wall. From this side the wall presents an impressive sight, well finished and appearing by virtue of the natural slope, much higher than it really is. These were in all probability deliberate design considerations and it is quite possible that the south-eastern orientation reflects the anticipated approach of visitors, hostile or otherwise, from the direction of the northern Cape frontier. Although there are three entrances at this end of the settlement, the most likely of these is approached along the bed of a shallow erosion gully which has the effect of further accentuating the height of the perimeter wall [24].

Here we also come across a somewhat curious-looking rectangular building which could have had some kind of representative function [25]. It could also have been used for a guard house as it is situated at the apex of the locality through which visitors would have had to pass. This building forms an integral part of the wall. Significantly, the entrance of the building faces out, towards a southerly direction. These observations favour the existence of a formal, public approach to the ||Khauxa!nas settlement. It can be conjectured that the building might have had additional functions, as it was here that oral evidence would have it that the peace talks between Jakob Marengo and the German Schutztruppe commanders took place in 1905 [26].

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||Khauxa!nas: Rectangular Building: Marengo's House: October 1988
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

This rectangular structure at the southern end of the perimeter wall must be seen in conjunction with two similar rectangular structures at the northern end. All three structures are clearly contemporaneous with the perimeter wall, two being keyed into the wall itself.

In keeping with the evidence from controlled access to the settlement, there are also compelling indications of social stratification or ranking among the inhabitants of ||Khauxa!nas. Kinahan [27] argues that these indications are to be found in the layout and positioning of dwellings and associated household features within the perimeter wall, as entered from the south-east. The gully entrance mentioned above leads into an area of low ground just inside the southern perimeter. Overlooking this area is a group of dwellings including a substantial screening wall which encloses an area just over 10 m in diameter, sufficient to accommodate at least one big mat house. The two other screening walls located nearby probably formed part of the same household cluster. Not only is this group of dwellings isolated from the main concentration of dwellings at the northern end of the site, but the walls are more substantial and they also show the distinctive finish of the southern perimeter wall, which is generally lacking from dwelling features elsewhere. Considering the size, its structural quality, as well as its position in relation both to the south-eastern main entrance and to the other household clusters, this was probably the senior household cluster at ||Khauxa!nas and the home of the leader of the Orlam Afrikaners, Klaas Afrikaner and from approximately 1800 Jager Afrikaner.

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Possible House of Klaas Afrikaner on the ||Khauxa!nas Mountain: March 2001
Copyright of Photos: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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Possible House of Klaas Afrikaner on the ||Khauxa!nas Mountain: April 2003
Copyright of Photos: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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Possible House of Klaas Afrikaner on the ||Khauxa!nas Mountain: January 2004
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

Well-finished walling evidently had connotations of prestige at ||Khauxa!nas and its association with the south-eastern perimeter wall and some of the higher ranked household clusters implies some form of hierarchical control over the Orlam Afrikaner community. This is particularly evident by the fact that very large building stones that would have had required considerable co-operative effort to construct are nor found among the lower ranked smaller household clusters at the northern end of the settlement. It is furthermore interesting to note that drains are restricted to the higher ranked dwellings and the south-eastern perimeter wall.

If ||Khauxa!nas households were hierarchically organised, the perimeter wall with its rectangular reception building on the outside would have served to control access to the site. The household cluster nearby could have served the Orlam Afrikaner leader, implying at least one level of social stratification incorporated in social structure of the community [28]. A similar pattern can be found among the household clusters at the northern end of the site, where two of the screening walls have small rectangular constructions similar to that at the south-eastern perimeter wall. These buildings could have been used to control some form of control within the household communities in the northern area of ||Khauxa!nas. The fact that there are two of these rectangular buildings indicate that they could have been constructed for Klaas Afrikaner's two sons, Jager and Titus Afrikaner. This general structure imply that the social organisation of ||Khauxa!nas was based on principles of kinship and genealogical seniority.

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The Rectangular Building in ||Khauxa!nas: "Marengo's House": April 2003
Copyright of Photos: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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The Rectangular Building in ||Khauxa!nas: "Marengo's House": January 2004
Copyright of Photos: Dr. Klaus Dierks

Thus, it can be concluded that ||Khauxa!nas had several levels of social ranking. This social ranking can be explained by different levels of accessibility or levels of permeability [29]. The rectangular building in the south-eastern wall represents the first level and provides the official access to the settlement. From here it is a short distance to the household of the leader of the Orlam Afrikaners, located at the second level. The third level is represented by the two rectangular buildings at the northern part of the site. Beyond these structures the various households of the encampment can be found which represent the fourth and fifth levels of permeability respectively. The residents of these dwellings would presumably have had unrestricted access to the fourth and fifth levels while the households at the third level would have had restricted access to the most senior household cluster at the second level.

There is no doubt in my mind about the primarily defensive purpose of ||Khauxa!nas. In contrast, few ruined settlements such as this in southern Africa appear to have been designed and constructed in order to maximise their defensive potential. In many cases their walls are too long to be effectively manned so that despite an appearance of considerable strength, many - like the "Acropolis" of Great Zimbabwe - were destroyed by enemies without undue difficulty. ||Khauxa!nas on the other hand, with its extensive protec tive walling for its defenders, had a truly defensive character. The fortress was big enough to accommodate a large number of people and probably livestock as well. It seems likely that the Orlam Afrikaners were sufficient in number to defend the settlement effectively. On the other hand we know from Ridsdale that ||Khauxa!nas was never actually witnessed under attack [30]. Kinahan, however, argues [31] that there is no clear explanation for the overall design of the site and many other details of its construction. There is evidence that contradicts that of fortification, and suggests, instead, that a combination of practical livestock herding and social symbolic considerations influenced the positioning of the walls and the features within them. For example, the extreme length of the perimeter wall would have made them difficult to defend without a sizeable force of defenders. Gunflints found inside the southern perimeter wall indicate that the Orlams were armed with flintlock guns, probably of the smoothbore variety most popular on the Cape frontier. Such weapons were generally inferior to true rifles, in both range and accuracy so that the positioning of the perimeter wall would have been crucial to the efficiency of the defence. It is equally clear, that unless they were closed with thornbushes, the large number of entrances would have made the site highly vulnerable to attack. The dwellings on the site would have been particularly at risk, since most were placed very close to the perimeter wall.

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Protective Wall around the ||Khauxa!nas Mountain Plateau: April 2003
Copyright of Photos: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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The Rectangular Building in ||Khauxa!nas: "Marengo's House": April 2003
Copyright of Photos: Dr. Klaus Dierks

Whatever the arguments are, it is one of the most fascinating aspects of investigating largely unknown ruins that for every question there are at least as many answers.

From the rectangular building at the south-eastern corner of the ring wall it is only a couple of metres before we reach the cliff faces dropping vertically down to the Bak River once again. From here we can follow the remains of the walls in a westerly direction until reaching the pathway leading down to the river. This completes our exploratory tour of the ruins on ||Khauxa!nas mountain.

The simple answer to the question "why was ||Khauxa!nas built" is "because people lived there". But as has been shown, this settlement was a fortress first and a place of habitation only second. Agriculture may have been practised to a limited extent with the regular availability of water from the Bak River. The pathway would have enabled cattle and other livestock to have been herded down to the water, although skeletal remains showing the type of domestic animals owned by the inhabitants have yet to be discovered by archaeological investigation. Although the settlement site was chosen primarily for its defensive impregnability, it would have served as a general refuge for a cattle-owning population in the vicinity as indicated by the relatively large area apparently set aside for livestock within the walls.

There is no direct evidence of any mining activities either. But like many another noteworthy ruined settlement in southern Africa, ||Khauxa!nas is situated near an old trading route, which in this case passes only a few kilometres to the west. During the 18th century this was the route most widely used by early explorers and traders to penetrate the Namibian interior from the Cape Colony. But despite its proximity to ||Khauxa!nas only a few traded objects have been discovered, apart from the aforementioned pottery fragments, some finery made from ostrich egg shells and one blue glass bead. No iron, copper or bronze remains have been found in the vicinity, while rifle cartridges which we came across are likely to be of relatively recent origin.

From an archaeological point of view the most significant objects are often those imported from afar, particularly from countries with a well-recorded history and where the objects can be precisely dated. Before the radio-carbon technique came into use, only objects with such origins could be valued chronologically. Glass beads are among the most important "characteristic" archaeological objects and their presence in large numbers is normally assumed to be evidence of the wealth of a particular group and/or the comparative sophistication of their culture. The absence of glass beads or comparable finds at ruins in the southern Transvaal, Orange Free State and Inyanga in Zimbabwe led to the conclusion that the settlements had been inhabited by "poverty-stricken peasants" [32]. The lack of such objects at ||Khauxa!nas means that the economic status of this Namibian settlement cannot yet be determined. Of more recent origin the well-known Dutch gin bottles found in the Dhlo-Dhlo ruins in Zimbabwe [33] have their counterpart in the many German beer and wine bottle remains found in the vicinity of ||Khauxa!nas and at many places all over Namibia.

Opposite the Bak River precipices the fortified mountain slopes away more gently towards the plains to the east of ||Khauxa!nas. From this point, where the defensive perimeter reaches its highest extent, several pathways lead to the site of the 19th century Schans Vlakte. Walking along these footpaths we pass several rows of strange-looking monoliths, which may have been erected for a similar reason as those on top of the mountain or for the purpose of protecting the settlement with spiritual powers. Of Ridsdale's Schans Vlakte [34] not much is left, apart from some circular foundations which may mark out the locations of huts.

There are also some ruins of more recent buildings which may be the remains of the ||Hawoben church. But without further archaeological investigation little more light can be cast on the real function of these structures. At the least, these ruins, which could well have originated in the colonial era (||Khauxa!nas III), provide evidence that the art of building with stone persisted until recent times. This is further supported by the fact that the same structural technique was used in the building of huts and kraals in other areas of Namibia where stone is plentiful but other construction materials are scarce. Answers to the question "who were they?" could be forthcoming by uncovering any skeletal remains through investigation of the graves visible at the south-eastern corner of Schans Vlakte, near a small tributary of the Bak River.

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Possible Ruins of the ||Hawoben Church, north east of the ||Khauxa!nas mountain (Schans Vlakte): February 1987
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

Although a primarily academic approach has been adopted in investigating and penetrating the secrets of ||Khauxa!nas it should not be forgotten that today's ruins are yesterday's homes, public buildings and places of manufacture, inhabited by living men, women, children and animals. Where historical records are inadequate to re-establish the true significance of the ruins, the missing facts may be provided by oral recollection, indirect sources, linguistic and ar chaeological research. These can provide the basis for a chronological record giving clues to names and dates. However, it must be borne in mind that oral evidence is by no means infallible and no less pray to exaggerations, bias, falsehood and suppression of the facts than the written record. All these forms of research have still to be undertaken at ||Khauxa!nas. Whatever the outcome, the ancient settlement will retain its value when first rediscovered as a national symbol of Namibia's freedom and independence.

||Khauxa!nas is evidence that the Nama communities of the Namibian south represented pastoral communities which were not passive victims of the colonial advances in the 18th and 19th centuries. Indeed, ||Khauxa!nas proves that the prolonged resistance of Namibian communities has its foundation in the flexible responses of pastoral societies to outside aggression.

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This aerial photograph shows ||Khauxa!nas Mountain overlooking the lake (dark patch in foreground) and the curve of the Bak River. The dark line on the hill top is the wall surrounding the settlement. The large flat plain in the background north of the protecting wall is Schans Vlakte: May 1987
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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This aerial photograph shows ||Khauxa!nas Mountain from the north with the Bak River in the background (top of photograph) with the protecting wall and some remains of the settlement (inner buildings). The plain in the foreground (bottom of photograph) is Schans Vlakte May 1987
Copyright of Photo: Dr. Klaus Dierks

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Detailed plan of the site (more or less than the above aerial photograph) showing the large scale of ||Khauxa!nas and the inner buildings, huts ands kraals. Schans Vlakte is to the east (bottom) and the Bak River to the southwest (top).
Anne Westoby, Longman Namibia


[1] O'C. Maggs, T. M.: Iron Age Communities of the Southern Highveld, Pietermaritzburg, 1976, p.26

[2] Summers, op cit, p.62

[3] A Classification of Prehistoric Stone Buildings in Mashonaland, South African Archaeological Bulletin, Vol.14 (1959), p.57-71

[4] Garlake, P.S.: Rhodesian Ruins - A Preliminary Assessment of their Styles and Chronology, Journal of African History, Vol.11, 1970, p.495-513

[5] O'C. Maggs, op cit, p.51-52

[6] O'C. Maggs, op cit, p.51-52

[7] Ibid, p.51-52

[8] Campbell, John: Travels in South Africa (Second Journey), London, 1822, p.223-224

[9] Wallis, J.P.R.: The Matabele Journals of Robert Moffat, London, 1945, Vol.1, p.8

[10] Summers, op cit, p.65

[11] Ibid, p.81

[12] Remarks made to the author on several occasions during 1987-90 by the Gugunas 301 farm owner H.J.K. Smith.

[13] Summers, op cit, p.89

[14] Some graves from the "Schans Vlakte" period of the 1830s-1840s (Ridsdale's time) were discovered during investigations on the plains east of ||Khauxa!nas mountain where Ridsdale's Schans Vlakte was situated. To date graves of an earlier date have yet to be found.

[15] Summers, op cit, p.95-96

[16] See Smit letter, and the oral evidence of Klaas Dousab, a Nama, and Klaas Louw, a farmer in the vicinity. They reported that after the final skirmishes between the German forces and Marengo's troops during 1905 in which the latter was defeated, probably following the battle of Narudas, all Nama prisoners of war were executed by hanging below ||Khauxa!nas mountain. The historical records on this event are not too clear, however. Smit also records the existence of many graves from this period as well as Bushmen paintings, which according to Gugunas 301 owner, H.J.K. Smith, did not survive the exceptional Bak River flood of 1972.

[17] Summers, op cit, p.118-119 and 223

[18] Ibid, p.127

[19] Bailie, op cit

[20] Summers op cit, p.129

[21] Ibid, p.139 and p.143

[22] Kinahan, John: The Archaeology of Social Rank Among Eighteenth-Century Nomadic Pastoralists in Southern Namibia, 1996, p.236,-237

[23] Ibid, p.234

[24] Ibid, p.237-238

[25] Oral information from J. Kinahan

[26] Oral information from J.A. Smith

[27] Kinahan, John: The Archaeology of Social Rank Among Eighteenth-Century Nomadic Pastoralists in Southern Namibia, 1996, p.238

[28] Ibid, p.239

[29] Ibid, p.240-242

[30] Ridsdale, op cit, p.275-276

[31] Kinahan, op cit, p.235-236

[32] Summers, op cit, p.162

[33] Ibid, p.163

[34] Ridsdale, op cit, p.275-276

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