Ryamurari, A Hidden Gem In Rwanda

Archaeological sites are one of the treasures in Rwanda and Ryamurari is a must-visit place for tourists interested in exploring some of these breathtaking sites. Situated within Bufunda Village (Bufunda Cell within Mukama sector) in Nyagatare District, Ryamurari is the name of the site and being on the peak of Mukama hill that extends for about 50 hectares, the site is where you will find some of the country’s three largest earthwork structures and a cut stone reservoir.

This site was also the capital of Ndorwa Kingdom (according to oral traditions) before it became part of Rwanda. When investigations were conducted on the area in the 1970s, it was discovered to be occupied in the middle of the 17th Century and was again re-occupied in about 1900 AD. Some of the remains found in the site are cattle bones as well as cow dung that suggest that the occupants of the area were originally cattle keepers. Also, there are several grinding stones that indicate that on top of animal rearing, the indigenous people also engaged in agriculture especially growing millet, sorghum, and beans.

Ryamurari is one of the most interesting archaeological sites found in the Great Lakes region and holds an important oral tradition and history of Rwanda. Ryamurari also has another name “Mu Bitabo bya Gahaya” meaning “clay curved structure that was constructed before the entrance of a traditional hut. It also means that the site was once inhabited by a great person known as “Gahaya”. The name Ryamurari is a honor to the occupation of the site by the great person known as “Murari”.

This Archaeological site is often associated with a swampy depression with salty water on its foot and it is said that the depression was through for the King’s cattle. The structures reportedly served as enclosures and the direction as well as the size of the labor force, vital to accomplish different tasks coupled with the presence of the abundant cattle remains show that the cattle-keeping elite who told people what to do.  What is even more breathtaking about the Ryamurari is its many names that show a correlation between Oral traditions, archaeology, and history.

In the Ankole, Burundi, Ndorwa and Rwanda region, the name Mukama means God, a King or Chief hence the fact that the hill on which this site sits is known as Mukama means it was inhabited by the King or Chief.

Therefore, Ryamurari is one of the popular archaeological sites within the Great Lakes region and also paramount to Rwandan culture. It comprises of three vast earthwork structures and a stone cut reservoir that indicate the early life of original inhabitants of the area but the fact that the Hill on which the site sits is referred as Mukama means the King named Gahaya or Murari occupied the area.