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It is located on a hill near the confluence of the Zambezi and Lusitu rivers, near the town of Siavonga by the Kariba Dam. The site was uncovered in 1960 by government workers and excavated by the archaeologist J.H Chaplin.
Ingombe Iledeis, meaning "the sleeping cow", received its name due to the local baobab trees that resemble a sleeping cow. The site is thought to have been a small commercial state or principality whose chief item of trade was salt. Archaeological findings include textiles, copper ore, ceramics, gold and other goods from the 7th to 16th century, making this one of the most important archaeological sites in the region.
The area flourished between the 13th and 15th centuries and is believed to have had trade relations with the Mwenemutapa Empire for ivory and gold, the Katanga region of present day DRC for slaves and copper and present day India. Other traders from the coast brought iron objects, beads, cloth, and ceramics, which they then traded for gold, ivory, and slaves. Growth in trade with the Portuguese from the mid-15th century onwards reflected shifts in regional trading patterns resulting from the decline of Great Zimbabwe.
Burial places were discovered during excavation. Variability in the presence of burial ornaments such as seashells, copper, bracelets, and glass beads with the remains suggests a degree of social stratification. It is believed that the burial sites with ornaments are likely to have belonged to more affluent people, such as traders, whilst the graves without ornaments probably belonged to slaves or the less affluent.
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