A large hill outside of Kasempa in Zambia is the location of an ancient battle between the Kaonde and Lozi tribes of Zambia. Because of this history, it is often referred to as the “Hill of Skulls,” due to the number of people that died there. The battle started over a dispute between Chief Mushima and Chief Kasempa, both of the Kaonde people. The Lozi people had sided with Chief Mushima. During the battle, the Kaonde people occupied the top of the hill while the Lozi warriors surrounded the bottom.
At this point, the stories of the battle differ. Lozi tradition states that they were able to starve to death Chief Kasempa’s men, who were fortified at the top of the hill. Kaonde tradition, however, states that this was a ruse. When the Lozi people went to take over the hill, the Kaonde people were able to kill them by rolling stones down the hill as the Lozis tried to climb up. After the battle, the Lozi people withdrew to modern-day Western Province, leaving the Kaonde in the Kasempa area. The story of this battle is reflected today in “tribal cousinship” jokes, where members of the Lozi and Kaonde tribes will tease each other about the tactics used in the battle.
In addition to the oral history of the site, the archaeological excavations around the hill have yielded results. These excavations found pottery, iron objects such as hoes and axes, a copper currency bar, and later Stone Age lithics. Radiocarbon analysis dated the Iron Age artifacts to 1150, while the Stone Age artifacts went back even further, revealing the lost history of the site.
Know Before You Go
Kamusongolwa Hill is located just outside Kasempa Boma, near the jail. It is accessible via a dirt road. It is possible to climb to the top of the hill for views of the surrounding area.