Engaruka is an abandoned system of ruins in the Great Rift Valley of northern Tanzania, famed for its irrigation and cultivation system. It is considered one of the most important Tanzanian archaeological sites.
Sometime in the 15th century, an iron age farming community with a large continuous village area on the footslopes of the Rift Valley escarpment, housing several thousand people developed an intricate irrigation and cultivation system, involving a stone-block canal channelling water from the “Crater Highlands” rift escarpment to stonelined cultivation terraces.
Measures were taken to prevent soil erosion and the fertility of the plots was increased by using the manure of stall fed cattle. For an unknown reason Engaruka was abandoned at latest in mid-19th century.
The site still poses many questions, including the identity of the founders, how they developed such an ingenious farming system, and why they left. The site has been linked to the Sonjo, a people living some 60 miles to the northwest known for their use of irrigation systems in agriculture and similar terraced village. New studies have revealed lot of unknown perspectives of the past of Engaruka, for example the Middle Stone Age and Neolithic Stone Age occupation history of the area.
The first explorer to record the existence of these ruins was Dr. Gustav Fisher, who passed them on July 5, 1883, and compared them to the tumbled-down walls of ancient castles. Drs Scoeller and Kaiser mentioned the ruins of “Ngaruku” including great stone circles and dams in 1896-97. The first detailed and archaeological investigation was by Hans Reck, in 1913.