Shaka Zulu and the Velvet Bean.

by Daniel Russ on February 28, 2015

I found an interesting story on this horticultural blog:

 

220px-Mucuna_pruriens_flower

Mucuna Pruriens

In it I found an account that was amazing to me.

It is not unknown history that an orphan named Shaka Zulu was taken in by a Nguni cheiftan. And it is well known that Shaka Zulu grew up to be a natural military commander and leader and he militarized the Nguni people. When Shaka rose to power, he made all mjales train as warriors. He made service mandatory and he conquered neighboring tribesmen and took territory.

On one such territorial expansion, Shaka sent tribesmen into Malawi and attacked a small municipality of the Lhomwe people, a band of gentle farmers. They built adobe homes of mud and grass and they ate vegetables indigenous from the region, which include a vine grown tropical legume known as Velvet Bean, or kalongonda. in Lhomwe. Mucuna pruriens is the Latin name and this plant offers pharmacological applications once processed. Unprocessed and consumed in large enough quantities, it is toxic and sometimes fatal to non ruminant animals and human beings.

The Lhomwe tribes people, learned that the Nguni tribesmen were on their way, and fled. In their wake, they left unprocessed Velvet Bean.

The warriors consumed it, died in large numbers and did not complete the capture and enslavement of the Lhomwe.

 

Shaka Zulu

Shaka Zulu

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xkwoC

 

This is Rome around the time of Trajan in 117 AD. This was Rome at its largest, and you can see from the  overlay that to the Northwest was Britannia and to the East was Egypt, Constantinople and the Levant. It is important to remember that it took about a month to go from one end of the empire to the other, it held together for 800 years before electricity.

 

 

travel_distances

 

This handy chart give you a sense of the distance in travel time during antiquity. That said, these travel times were probably quite fast in comparison to travelling in the oppressive deserts and plains of Mongolia or in the thick rain forests of Southeast Asia.

 

 

RomanEmpire_117.svg

Rome under Trajan. 46 Provinces and at least as many miles of territory as the United States.

 

Source: Vox Media, Yuri Victor

 

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