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
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