Up in the north of the Kruger National Park, close to Punda Maria, is Thulamela. Thulamela is an ancient stone-walled site that is said to date back about 450-500 years. This Iron Age site is said to form part of what is known as the Zimbabwe Culture, a group which split and spread out. It was possibly because of political reasons that some of the group broke away and moved down to what is now the Kruger National Park.
Life at Thulamela consisted of trade, and they were part of a network of trade routes that stretched as far as Botswana, Zambia and central Africa. They also did a lot of farming; several kinds of sorghum and millets were farmed at this site. Grains were not only ground down for food but also for beer. At the site, discarded clay pots were found. Some were cooking pots and some were used for drinking. Most of these pots were decorated.
While excavating, two graves were found beneath hut floors. The first grave contained the remains of a female and was estimated to date back to around 1600 AD. It is believed that the grave was dug through the hut floor in an area in which the wives lived. The second grave contained the remains of a man. The remains appeared to be broken and it is assumed that the person died elsewhere and was brought here for burial.
Moving down to the south of the Kruger National Park, at the Phabeni Entrance Gate is the site of the Albasini Ruins. Joao Albasini was a well-known Portuguese trader in the area during the 19th Century and had his trading post here. Albasini arrived at the Portuguese port in the early 1800s and set up a trading business. He worked his way inland and in 1945 he established a trading post known then as Magashula’s Kraal. This trading post was positioned along two well-known trading routes. This settlement was to become the first European settlement in the Disease ridden Lowveld. Before Albasini bought a farm in the Ohrigstad area, he spent about two years at Magashula’s Kraal. Here he grew grain that he ground and then used to bake some of the best white bread.
Another ruin in the Kruger National Park is Masorini. This site is about 11 km from Phalaborwa Gate. This was the home of the ancestors of the Baphalaborwa people.
These people melted iron for a living and from excavations done in the area, it is believed that the smelters lived on the lower terrace and the iron forgers on a higher terrace. The village has been lovingly restored to its former glory and includes the stone walls, grinding stones, pots and even an old smelting furnace.