Surrounded by breathtaking views and smack dab in the middle of northern Zambia is Nachikufu Cave. This remote cave system is an archeologists dream, and it’s no surprise why. It has a deep history of human habitation, and it’s surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
That being said, if you’re planning on taking a visit yourself, there are some things you need to know. If you go unprepared, your trip won’t be as enjoyable, and no one wants that. I’ve put together a list of the most important information, and hopefully it’ll help you plan and make the most of your trip!
1. General Information
Mpika is a town located in the Muchinga Province of Zambia, with a relatively high population and booming tourism sector. It’s home to multiple natural and man-made sights, including Nachikufu Cave.
Nachikufu Cave is a complex cave system with a lengthy history of human habitation. Within it are several prehistoric rock paintings, and it is an all-around archaeological wonder. The cave is remote, minimally developed, and has few visitors. It makes for an awe-inspiring trip, so long as you’re armed with the information you need before you go, and is a must-see for history buffs and archaeology lovers alike.
Via excavations into Nachikufu Cave’s floor, archeologists have discovered evidence of long time human habitation, which dates back to as far back as 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. It’s been home to various civilizations and people over the years. During the pre-colonial era, the cave was used as a means of protection by the Lala and Bisa people, who used it to hide from Bemba and Ngoni raids.
The cave’s archaeological digs have shown evidence of three different Stone Age Industries – Nachikufan I, II, and III. These industries were practiced in the late Stone Age by hunting-gathering people who occupied the wooded plateaus of south-central Africa.
According to Britannica, during these industries several projectiles with different kinds of microlithic heads were used, along with heavy stone scrapers (used for working wood and its by-products), flattish stones with centre-bored holes (served either as parts of a spring trap or for digging-stick weights), edge-ground axes, and grindstones.
The cavemen once dwelled in Nachikufu Cave did so for a reason – the surrounding area is perfect for supporting life. The cave looks over a wide plateau that provides the perfect vantage point, and are composed of quartzite rock, the ideal material for creating stone tools. A stream runs five-hundred meters away from the cave, and the surrounding area is rich in life, making hunting and gathering easy and reliable. It’s almost as if the caves were designed to support human life.
4. Cave Paintings
Archaeological excavations aren’t the only thing that proves the cave used to hold human life. The caves past inhabitants left presents in the form of cave paintings.
There are several paintings, including the only black rock paintings in Zambia. And though they have not aged well, they’re still a beautiful and unique historic site. They include red, geometric paintings, and black, naturalistic paintings of human figures holding weapons, two elephants, one antelope, and other animals. White paintings of tools and unidentifiable animals are also located within the cave.
As mentioned above, because the cave is located on a plateau, it has a great vantage point. This means beautiful views of the surrounding area. Located in the cave are several displays, each depicting a portion of the caves history. Some show enhanced pictures of the cave paintings, others hold artifacts that were found in the cave. They are educational and add to the experience without making the cave seem overdeveloped.
The cave is upheld by an assigned caretaker. They live near the property and come to unlock the cave if visitors are sighted. If they don’t see you, give them a call on the phone number posted on a nearby sign. The cave and provided parking lot are accessible during daylight only.
7. Nearby Sites
After visiting Nachikufu Cave, you may be wondering if there are other similar nearby sites you could visit, and the answer is yes. Other nearby interesting archaeological sites include the Kalemba Rockshelter and Mwela Rock Paintings.
An archaeology site located in eastern Zambia. The site is known for various rock paintings, including prehistoric paintings of human figures and animals. It’s been used as shelter by humans since as early 35,000 BC, and is not finished being excavated, as its 1971 excavation was halted due to unsafe conditions.
Mwela Rock Paintings:
The Mwela Rock Paintings are a national monument of Zambia, and for good reason. There are nearly 700 different rock paintings in the caves and overhangs that are located at the site. The Mwela Rock Paintings are one of the largest and most significant collections of ancient art in Southern Africa.
Seeing Nachikufu Cave is an experience you shouldn’t miss out on.
They are an important peice of human history, and visiting them is like talking a walk through the past. Hopefully this list has answered some of your questions and helped you prepare for your visit. Now that you know what you’re getting yourself into, I have no doubt you’ll have a fun, safe trip.
Hi, I'm Ash!
I’m a travel blogger who loves experiencing new things and deeply connecting with people. My missions are to help others around the world realize their travel dreams, and to spread the word about sustainable travel. Feel free to send me a message here.