Thimlich Ohinga history

Thimlich Ohinga history : East African’s Nyanza Kenya region contains a collection of stone-built remains called Thimlich Ohinga. It is the biggest of the 138 sites around the Kenyan lake region’s Lake Victoria that are home to 521 stone constructions. They are closely grouped together.  The walls of the main enclosure at Thimlich Ohinga are 1-3 m (3.3-9.8 ft) thick and 1-4.2 m (3.3-13.8 ft) tall. Undressed blocks, boulders, and stones were used to erect the constructions, which were thus mortar less in construction. The tightly packed stones interlock in. The area is thought to have been occupied as early as the fifteenth century.

Thimlich Ohinga location

On a gently sloping hill 46 kilometres (29 miles) north-west of Migori town, close to Macalder’s Mines, Thimlich Ohinga is situated 181 kilometres (112 miles) south of Kisumu in Migori county. In the regions of Karungu, Kadem-Kanyamkago, Gwassi, Kaksingiri Lake headlands, Kanyidoto, and Kanyamwa, there are another 137 sites that are similar to it.

The site was documented in the 1960s by Neville Chittick, a former director of the British Institute of History and Archaeology in East Africa. In 1980, investigation on the location was started by researchers from the National Museums of Kenya. Thimlich Ohinga, formerly known as “Liare Valley” after a valley to the region’s northeast, was gazetted as a Kenyan National Monument in 1981.Since “Liare Valley” did not accurately depict the site’s location, the name was changed. The Luo people live in the region. In Dholuo, the language of the Luo, Thimlich means “a terrifying dense forest,” while Ohinga means “a large fortress.”

Why Thimlich Ohinga was built

A well-organized community with the ability to mobilise labour and resources is indicated by the size of Thimlich Ohinga and related structures. The materials used to build the enclosures came from the nearby rocks, which were easily accessible. According to Luo oral tales, the fences were constructed as a kind of defence against stray animals, cattle rustlers, and other hostile parties. According to these legends, Thimlich Ohinga was built by the locals at the time to provide defence against foreigners in the Kadem and Kanyamwa regions as well as from nearby ethnic groups from what is now Tanzania. Thimlich Ohinga served as a defensive fort as well as a centre of the economy, religion, and society.

Who built it?

The precise dating of the site is still up for debate. On the site, quartz flakes of the late stone age type have been discovered, which are thought to predate it. Regarding the history and architects of Thimlich Ohinga and the other stone-walled towns, there is some disagreement. Simple conclusions to the ethnic or linguistic identity of the site’s creators are, however, at best questionable given that all recent historical, linguistic, and genetic data points to significant population migration and admixture during pre-colonial and colonial eras. According to historical and archaeological research, the area’s original builders and subsequent residents upheld a pastoral culture where cattle were an important part of the economy. These research also come to the conclusion that socio-political organisation was vital in the development of Thimlich Ohinga and other defensive constructions nearby.

The people arrived at the sites in waves. The original residents may have been a Bantu-speaking people before the migration of Nilotic-speaking groups, according to oral histories. According to some sources, the Thimlich Ohinga region was home to the proto-Gusii/Kuria or proto-Luhya. It is thought that migrants from Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, and Burundi also passed through the region; some of them later entered Tanzania from the south. According to archaeological and ethnographic research of the sites, the spatial structure most closely follows that of traditional Luo homesteads. For instance, Thimlich Ohinga reveals a pattern of circular Luo homesteads with a main meeting point next to a central cattle fence. Additionally, pottery unearthed at the locations shows distinctive decorative patterns that are characteristic of Western Nilotic speakers (Luo), but not of Bantu speakers.

Thimlich Ohinga history
Thimlich Ohinga

These results imply that the people who lived in these buildings may have also contributed to the lineage of the locals who still call themselves Luo today. Thimlich Ohinga had been left by the original builders for unidentified reasons. The residents of the complexes kept them up by fixing and altering the buildings as other groups gradually migrated into the area between the 15th and the 19th centuries. The structures were still preserved despite the re-occupation and repairs.

During the early half of the 20th century, the location was abandoned for the last time as the colonial administration imposed peace and order in the area. The family who had been living in the enclosures separated off into their own homesteads, utilising euphorbia as fencing material rather than stone. The indigenous population changed its way of thinking as it transitioned from a communal to an individualised way of life.

Thimlich Ohinga Architectural styles

Although lower in scale, the Thimlich Ohinga’s architectural design is a reflection of Great Zimbabwe’s (3,100 km) to the south in Zimbabwe. The construction of Thimlich Ohinga, in contrast to Great Zimbabwe, used loose, randomly-shaped basalt stones from the area. Both sites lacked dressing and mortar, thus stability required tremendous care and expertise. The walls of Thimlich Ohinga are free-standing, 1 m (3.3 ft) thick, and lack a base that has been dug. They range in height from 0.5 to 4.5 m (1.6 to 14.8 feet).

The ovoid walls meet one another in a curving, zigzag pattern with sporadic buttresses to increase stability. Similar enclosures in Northern Nyanza also include stone linings and rock supports. The gates include engravings and stone lintels.

Thimlich Ohinga is an example of defensive savannah architecture, which eventually became a traditional style in various parts of East and Southern Africa. Taken together with the other stone built enclosures, Thimlich Ohinga creates the impression of a society with a centralised system of control and communal lifestyle that was spread around the Lake Victoria region.

Thimlich Ohinga interiors design

Right after the entrance, there is a watchtower made of elevated rocks. The main monument in Thimlich Ohinga has three entrances, two of which face east and one towards the west. The buildings are divided into depressions, a number of smaller enclosures, and corridors. There are high platforms and circular depressions where the dwellings within the enclosures were built. Six dwelling pits and five enclosures can be found inside the main monument. The main enclosure of Thimlich Ohinga contains a leisure games area where a board game similar to Mancala, known locally as ajua, is curled into the rock surface. The location also has grain-grinding stones. Additionally, retaining walls for gardens and livestock cages for cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, and guinea pigs were constructed.

There are both domestic and wild animal remains at the site, including those of cattle, ovicaprids (sheep and goats), chicken, fish, hartebeest (Kongoni), duiker, and hare. It was planned for the entryways to have narrow tunnels so that guards posted on the watchtower close to the entrance could easily disarm any would-be attackers.

A good perspective of the entire complex and the surroundings is provided by the watchtower. Smaller side forts with homes, dining spaces, animal cages, and granaries are also included in the enclosures. There was an iron smith at Thimlich Ohinga. In a partially walled region near to the main enclosure, iron slag, smoking bellows, and iron items have been discovered. The presence of imported glass beads at the site shows that Thimlich Ohinga participated in a network of cross-country trade.

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