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The Thulamela Stone Citadel in northern Kruger National Park was occupied from 1250 to 1700 AD, but evidence of early humans dates back some 1.5 million years. The San people also lived in the area as far back as 100,000 years ago. Some 2,000 years ago, the first Nguni-speaking people, looking for more grazing land for their cattle, migrated south into the area and displaced the San.

By 800 AD, Arabs had started raiding the area for slaves, based from the ports in Mozambique.

Evidence of the Thulamela civilisation which became one of the main trading posts in the region still exists in the form of glass beads, Chinese porcelain, imported cloth, ivory bracelets, gold, bronze and other jewellery.

Archaeologists have discovered the tombs of an African king and queen who ruled here during the 16th century. She was named Queen Losha - because she was buried with her hands placed under her cheeks: a position of great respect known as losha. He was named King Ingwe - meaning leopard, because on the day his grave was found, a leopard was waiting as the excavating team returned to their vehicle.

The royal enclosure at Thulamela accommodated a thousand people. Beyond the walled citadel, the hillsides are dotted with collapsed walls and signs of dwellings which indicate that up to 2,000 people may have lived here. There are also signs of lively trading. The people of Thulamela were skilled goldsmiths and their main currency was gold. This they traded, along with ivory, for glass beads and corn, with traders who came from today's Mozambique.

About the archeological research: http://mcah.columbia.edu/thulamela/