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Tanzania: The facts.

Engaruka Irrigation System Ruins


One of the most important Tanzanian archaeological sites is Engaruka. Engaruka ruins are located in the Great Rift Valley adjacent to the eastern rim of the Ngorongoro crater. The ruins consist of a complex irrigation and intricate cultivation system with stone walled canals and dams covering an area of 20 square kilometres There are also remains of approximately seven villages where several thousand people would have lived. It is estimated that the settlement, first created in the iron age in the early 15th century, was abandoned in the early to mid 1700s.


Engaruka ruins are situated 63 km (about 40 miles) south of the small town of Mto wa Mbu at the edge of Manyara National Park in Northern Tanzania.





























The Engaruka ruins were first reported by a German Explorer, Dr Gustav Fisher in 1885. The famous East African archaeologists Louis and Mary Leakey did a detailed study of the ruins in 1935. In more recent times, a team led by Professor Ari Siiriainen from the University of Helsinki, Finland has conducted archaeological studies of the site which continue to date. The Maasai who are pastoralists currently inhabit the area around the ruins. There is, in fact, a village nearby that goes by the same name.


There is really no reliable theory about the people who lived here and why they left. It is clearly not the Maasai who have no history of engaging in agriculture or, for that matter, forming permanent settlements like this. The most plausible theory is that it may have been a settlement of the Iraqw ethnic group who are presently found in nearby Karatu. The Iraqw are a unique ethnic group in Tanzania as they are Cushitic and clearly migrated from the North in the Ethiopia region where similar languages to theirs are spoken. Their physical features are also similar to Ethiopians. The theory goes that the Iraqw may have lost a war with either the Maasai or another ethnic group, the Barbaig and forced to flee.


Iron age tools have also been excavated in other parts of Tanzania including Katuruka in Bukoba, North West Tanzania and Isimila in Iringa, in the southern highlands of Tanzania.


Engaruka Irrigation System Ruins