Northern Region, Harare


Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences: Ethnography and Archaeology

The Museum of Human Sciences, formerly known as Queen Victoria Museum was opened in 1903.Then it was a museum and public library built in tribute to the Queen of England. The first sixty years of its existence saw the museum shifting its location three times. The present museum, located in the Civic Centre of the capital city of Zimbabwe, Harare, was opened in 1964.
Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences

Over the years the museum’s focus has undergone substantial metamorphosis. Prior to the country’s attainment of political independence from Britain in 1980, Natural History dominated the museum’s research focus particularly in the areas of paleontology, mammology, ornithology and ichthyology. Prehistory and ethnology played second fiddle, nevertheless extensive work was done in rock art documentation as well as maintenance of National Monuments. The latter was the primary responsibility of the Historical Monuments Commission before its amalgamation with National Museum in October 1972.Although history constituted an important section of the museum’s network, its research emphasis and presentation were mainly to further the colonial legacy in Zimbabwe.

At independence in 1980, National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ), an organization born in 1972 to manage all national museums and Monuments in the country, adopted a policy of decentralization. The move was to promote efficiency in operations and facilitate quick delivery of services to the once marginalized majority of Zimbabweans. The five major national museums, evenly distributed in the country, became epicenter of museum work in the five regions that cater for the entire country. Within this framework the museum in the capital city was tasked with the responsibility for satisfying the national needs in the area of human sciences. Consequently archeology and ethnography asserted themselves as the main research disciplines at this museum. To date the thrust of the museum has been Stone Age and Iron Age studies, studies of the culture and history of the people of Zimbabwe, rock art and the preservation of historical Monuments.

The museum’s long experience in collecting, researching, presenting and exhibiting which spans for almost one hundred years gives the museum of Human Sciences a strong foundation upon which it continues to score more success today and in future. The strength that ZMHS has always thrived on is that everyone connected with it realizes that a Museum is a living thing, which must grow but nevertheless must be dyanmic and respond to changing social conditions.


Archaeology and Monuments Department
Archaeology and Monuments is one of the departments at the heart of the NMMZ's core business.

The Archaeology and Monuments Department is responsible for research into various elements related to development of humanity since prehistoric times. The department also focuses on preservation and documentation of both movable and immovable heritage. Research into the past is anchored on archaeological surveys and excavations, which the department has, and continues to carry out all over the country. These have led to a creation of an invaluable data bank of information about past societies.

The archaeology of Nyanga Hills exhibited at the museum.

To this end, the department manages the National Archaeological Survey, which happens to be the national storage for all information on heritage places. Researchers from outside NMMZ are welcome to utilise information from this facility. Research into archaeological material from surveys and excavations is carried out by the department, and borne out of this are several publications focusing on the diverse elements of past societies, including their religion, technology, diet, inter and intra social relations, as well as economy. School groups and tertiary institutions are free to request lectures on selected archaeology topics. Results from work and research are constantly exhibited either in the temporary or permanent display area.

Central to the Monuments is the preservation of the heritage in the region. This involves identification of the monuments through various methods that include surveys, verification and confirmation of sites reported by the public. Documentation of the identified monuments captures the components of the monument ranging from the physical fabric to include the intangible elements like spiritual values. This is done by way of text descriptions, photographs, maps, audio and video tapes. Restoration and maintenance of the monuments are very crucial activities undertaken by the department. For this great endeavour to be successful the department works closely with local Communities and schools in ensuring that the heritage is preserved for use today and for posterity. The department also ensures that the public gets access to the monuments for educational and other purposes without affecting the integrity of the monument.

The Department also conducts Archaeological Impact Assessments research through its Field Unit for developers in line with NMMZ Impact Assessment Guidelines.


Natural history exhibition

Natural History Department

The National Collection of mammals, birds and Butterflies is housed in the Bulawayo Natural History Museum but at the Museum of Human Sciences we have a small collection for a variety of specimens of Mashonaland. The department also helps to identify specimens brought in by members of the public. The department also carries out field excursions teaching students and teachers about modern techniques of collecting specimen, skinning, data recording, preserving, casting, funning methods and mounting.

The department has a touch collection characterised by a variety of mounted birds and animals which are available for loan to colleges, schools and the private sector. A statutory fee is charged for all the collections or specimen loaned to individuals or institutions.

Ethnography Department.

The Department of Ethnography is one of the research departments of the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences. The department focuses on the scientific study of people's culture with a special emphasis on Zimbabwe and Africa. Ethnography involves the re-inquiry into the way people lived and still live today. It deals with both the tangible and intangible aspects of our cultural heritage, that is, both cultural beliefs and material culture. Thus, the department researches, collects, conserves and exhibits objects of cultural and aesthetic value as well as the living traditions associated with cultural sites and monuments. In line with NMMZΓÇÖs core values of being creators of accessible knowledge, educators and an arena of national identity, the department has to date, collected a diverse range of ethnographic objects in excess of 8000 for use by museums in research, exhibitions and educational programmes.

Ethnographic studies and publications on shrines such as the Shavarunzi (Nehanda's shrine), Chitungwiza chaChaminuka and Nharira Hills have ensured that intangible heritage remains an integral and essential component of heritage management in Zimbabwe. The successful establishment of the BaTonga Museum (a community museum for the Tonga people in Binga), and other community museums being developed in Hwange and Beitbridge further confirm the importance of the ethnography department, as these museums are largely ethnographic in outlook. Therefore, the Ethnography Department remains one of NMMZ's research departments with a potential of becoming the most interesting because of the diversity and richness of contemporary cultures, and the national responsibility it has of covering the whole country.


Heritage Education

The thrust of the Heritage Education Department is to create heritage awareness across all levels of the society by stimulating interest in the museum-visiting clientele both within the museum, sites and monuments in the region as well as through outreach programmes. This is achieved through the implementation of a variety of programmes in which museum displays, sites and monuments are interpreted for the benefit of the public. With over fifty percent of the museums’ visitorship comprising the school population, the department pays special attention to this sector by designing programmes in which museums heritage resources are used to enhance the school curriculum at all levels. It is in this multi-faceted approach therefore, that members of the general public, both local and foreigners are encouraged to visit the museum, sites and monuments in the region to learn, appreciate and enjoy Zimbabwe’s heritage.

Services Within the Museum

Guided Tours
Tour guides are available to provide guided tours of the museum galleries to individuals, couples or groups of visitors. Visitors who do not require a guide are free to tour the museum on their own. At major sites such as Domboshava, Mutoko, Chiremba, Tsindi and Ngomakurira, custodians are available to provide guided tours. Where comprehensive lectures are required arrangements can be made with the department.

General Tours
Educational groups that are visiting the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences for the first time are usually offered an orientation programme focusing on the functions of the museum and its role in society. This includes a slide show and general question time. Students are thereafter arranged into groups under the supervision of a teacher and given a guided tour of the museum.

Specific Tours
A detailed study of specific topics is offered to classes upon request at least one week prior to the date of visit. Arrangements are made with the teachers on themes and topics that relate to museum displays. With the use of the museum education ‘touch collection’; lessons and lectures are conducted in the auditorium, with the aid of films, slides and activity sheets.

Museum Clubs
A manageable number of pupils are selected from local primary schools to form a Museum Club. The club members attend weekly meetings at the museum where they study specific themes and engage in projects relating to museum work. Members also participate in national programmes under the auspices of the Youth Conservation Clubs (YCC). The Department also encourages schools to form school-based museum clubs that will apply museum education approaches in their club activities covering Wildlife, Heritage Quiz, Science and Geography. The department continuously provides information to all clubs through advice, brochures and/or leaflets with relevant literature.

The Museum Education Mobile Unit
The Museum Education Mobile Unit targets rural schools and communities with no access to the museum by providing traveling exhibitions. The programme is carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture. The mobile exhibition is made up of animal mounts and other museum artefacts illustrating various themes. These are exhibited at a central school for a cluster of schools. This ‘museum to the people’ service is absolutely free. Through this ‘dangling carrot’ approach schools are enticed to visit the museum.

Heritage Quiz For Primary Schools:
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Headmasters and Teacher Education Programmes
One way of creating heritage awareness amongst the youth is by targeting teachers. The Heritage Education Officer conducts programmes for headmasters and teachers at the museum, at sites or in schools with the aim of creating awareness on the important role museums and sites can play in the teaching learning process. This includes programmes for teachers in their final year of training at Teachers’ colleges such as Seke, Belvedere and Morgan Zintech. This is done with the hope that these teachers-in training will use the acquired knowledge when they get into the field.

Workshops Content

  • Role of museums and monuments in the community.
  • Heritage Education Programmes.
  • Role of Heritage Education Department.
  • Illustratation on how museum can be used to enhance the school curriculum.

Teacher Placement Programme
In collaboration with this Ministry of Education, practising teachers are seconded to the Heritage Education Department over school holidays. The seconded teachers go through a vigorous induction programme, which among many other things covers functions of museums, museum operations, gallery interpretation, microteaching within the museum and specific lectures from Curators. Skills in teaching using sites or monuments and artefacts are also inculcated and developed as the teachers are taken to sites where further teaching and micro teaching sessions are conducted.

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Library Services

Zimbabwe museum of Human sciences library

The books, journals and historical material held in the library are the major source of information, not only for research undertaken within the museum, but also for other scientific and educational activities within and outside Zimbabwe. This is not a public library but a special library, set up by the organization, in this case, the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences, to serve the information needs of its staff. The library contains information on Archaeology, Ethnography, History, Botany, Museology, Mammalogy, Rock Art and General Subjects. Permission to make use of the library’s resources by outside research workers is approved by the Regional Director or the Librarian.

  • There are over 3 000 books, 1 500 journals, newspaper cuttings, and pamphlets. The material is obtained through purchase, exchange or received as donations.
  • The library offers a wide range of services from which all museum staff/departments, other museums and institutions in Zimbabwe, and other countries benefit.

    In its support of the research work done at the museum, the library is not merely a storehouse of books but an active supplier of information vital to the work of the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences, and indeed other similar research organizations.

Focus Of Exhibitions


The Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences has a responsibility to carry out research, document and preserve for posterity as well as to present both the intangible and material culture relating to human development. With the major thrust of research on the archaeological, history and ethnography of the country, the museum’s exhibitions seek to educate the public on human development from prehistoric times to contemporary societies. In a chronological sequence exhibitions bring into perspective life of early humans in the Stone Age, through to the Iron Age, and the life of the Shona people in the nineteenth century. Highlights in this section include an illustration of the theory of human evolution, rock art of the Hunter-gatherer communities of the Southern Africa, illustrations of the state systems (Great Zimbabwe and other stone walled sites), the art of iron smelting and the stone masonry of the Iron Age peoples in Zimbabwe. A life size homestead in a typical traditional village in the nineteenth century portrays the virtues, values, traditions, customs and general lifestyle of the people now called the Shona in Zimbabwe. Based on the rich background of the ethnographic research spanning over decades, the permanent galleries reflect the wealth, diversity, dynamism as well as adaptability to change of the Zimbabwean culture.

The natural sciences section shows a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes and amphibians of Mashonaland in their natural habitats. Illustrations of how different species of wildlife have adapted to their different lifestyles are brought to life by state of the art backdrops and dioramas. About two hundred square metres of display space portray a typical miombo woodland open habitat. Different seasons are illustrated to bring out the interdependence between man and his environment through time.

The Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences has a very viable temporary exhibitions programme. Through temporary exhibitions, the museum responds to societal challenges, needs and aspirations. The exhibition, lasting for a duration of three months addresses such contemporary issues as AIDS and HIV, cultural diversity, politics, natural disasters and any acts of human endeavour.

Monuments and Sites

A number of Monuments are under the custody of the Northern region. Some notable Monuments include Domboshava, Chiremba Balancing rocks, Mutoko, Nharira Hills, and Chitungwiza Cha Chaminuka.

Chiremba balancing rocks

Chiremba Balancing Rock

Chiremba Balancing Rocks was declared a national Monument in 1994 and is located 13 kilometers south east of Harare in Epworth. It is characterized by granite balancing rocks within a natural breathtaking scenic environment. The Balancing rocks are a continuation of the awe-inspiring landscape, comprising among other manifestitations Domboramwari and Epworth Theological College.

The Balancing Rocks symbolize peace and stability of the nation’s economy. During the colonial period the Balancing Rocks were adopted as one of the motifs appearing on the Rhodesian paper currency. This symbolic significance continues today as it has continued to be used on the post colonial currency. The business community has reaffirmed the importance of the Balancing Rocks by using it in various commercial adverts.

The site offers camping and picnic activities for individuals, family and group functions. On-site, is a kiosk offering refreshments and souvenirs. It is an ideal environment for weddings, birthday parties, and fellowships.

Domboshava National Monument
The Monument came under the custodianship of National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe in 1936. It lies approximately 30 km north of Harare and can be reached via Borrowdale Road. Major attractions include an Interpretive Centre or Site Museum, beautiful rock art panels, geological formations and a natural scenic environment such as abundant wooded vegetation, peaceful flowing stream, pools and walking trails.

Domboshava is not only a lovely picnic area with plenty to see but is also rich with a dynamic oral history that hinges around Rambakurimwa (Jiri), the pool, Chavaroyi hill, tunnels and Chiburitsirwa Hill. It’s a venerated rain making ceremony site in which the natural attributes such as the Rambukurimwa forest, and the geological tunnels have acquired cultural significance through time. The Archaeology and Monuments Department works with local schools and leaders in preserving the site and other awareness programmes.

Other Facilities Available

  • Camping grounds and toilet facilities
  • Picnic facilities: braai stands, resting and picnic sheds.

Mutoko National Monument
It was declared a national Monument in 1949 and is located about 7,5 kilometers due east of Mutoko growth point. Mutoko National Monument has stone walls similar to Great Zimbabwe. Oral traditions say that the traditional spirit medium Nehoreka used the Mutoko stone settlement as a shrine. Up to today, Nehoreka’s descendents and the local community conduct rituals at the site.

Mutoko National Monument belongs to a cluster of attractions that include Ruchera cave (with rock paintings and Stone Age deposits) Fort Mahaka and Fort Luanze (Portuguese sites) and many other rock art sites. Mutoko area is an ideal place for those who want to be at peace with themselves and their creator.


  • Site Museum
  • Braai stands
  • Resting sheds
  • Picnic areas

Nharira Hills National Monument
Nharira Hills was declared a national Monument in 2000 and is located 20 kilometers from Harare along the Harare-Bulawayo Road. The Nharira Hills Shrine is characterized by living traditions relating to Nyamweda people. Ancestral graves of the Nyamweda are located in various hills in the area. The Nyamweda people still carry out their rituals in the area, and their territorial spirit medium is the custodian of the site.

It also has other cultural remains in the form of rock paintings, ancient granaries and remains of iron smelting. The famous film, “King Solomon’s mines” was shot in the Nharira Hills area. This scenic landscape is also located close to Lake Chivero as well as the Lion and Cheetah Park.


Contact Us

Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences

Civic Centre, Rotten Row
  Box CY 33, Causeway
  Harare, Zimbabwe.

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