At the Thimlich Ohinga Prehistoric Site, you will see peculiar 16th century dry stone enclosures. They are similar in construction to the ruins one sees in Great Zimbabwe. Such structures are widespread in Western Kenya. Both early (Bantu) and later (Nilotic) settlers in the region constructed about 520 of such enclosures in 139 localities in the Lake Victoria region.

One thing that will strike you are the skilfully constructed walls. Built without mortar they still tower between 1.2 to 4.2 M into the sky. The walls are between 1 and 3 M thick and embrace a series of house pits and cattle enclosures.

This makes the Thimlich Ohinga Prehistoric Site a rare example of early defensive Savannah architecture. The concept inspired a tradition which remains unrivalled in East Africa. The striking stone wall enclosures nestled among the trees and shrubs of a gently sloping hill, give the impression of a forest from a distance. The Euphorbia candelabrum towering above all the other trees and shrubs completes that illusion. From this vantage point, you can appreciate why the hill got its strange name, ‘Thimlich’. Thimlich in the Dholuo language means ‘frightening dense forest’.

The Site

The site includes the stone enclosures and a traditional Luo homestead. It is most likely that when researchers from the National Museums of Kenya began working here in 1980, the hill was much more forested than it is today. In addition to its scenic location, Thimlich Ohinga is famous mainly for its stone wall enclosures. The structures date back around 500 years ago. They trace back to a Late Iron Age (LIA) community that had settled in the Lake Victoria region.

The first communities to settle here, mainly of Bantu origin, introduced this stone building tradition to meet their security requirements. They also wanted to exploit environmental resources effectively. Abundant rocks on the hilly areas were a ready resource to construct complex villages or cities.

Thimlich Ohinga sits 46 KM northwest of Migori town near Macalder’s Mines in the south-western tourist circuit. It forms a perfect stopover if you are on your way to or from the nearby Ruma National Game Park, Gogo Falls or the Macalder gold mines.