The presence of ancient humans in Zambia at least 200, 000 years ago was shown by the discovery of the broken hill skull in Kabwe in 1921, this was the first human fossil ever discovered in Africa. The earliest known modern humans to live in the territory of modern day Zambia were the Khoisans. They were Bushmen, brown in complexion, Hunter gatherers who lived a nomadic life with Stone age technology. Mainly they collected fruits and nuts, but they also hunted antelope and other animals.
The Khoisans were the only inhabitants of most Zambia until the 4th century, when Bantu started to migrate from the north. They had far more developed technology, they were farmers and had copper tools and weapons as well as knowledge of pottery making. They lived in small self sufficient villages of wattle and daub huts, growing sorghum and beans, as well as keeping cattle and goats.
The longa live in southern Zambia along the Zambezi river ore the earliest settlers among the modern ethnic groups in Zambia today. The name Tanga is apparently from a word in the Shona language that means “independent”. Since the early farmers practiced slash and bum agriculture, they had to constantly move further south when the soil was exhausted. The indigenous Khoisans were either killed, assimilated into the new culture or displaced into areas not suitable for agriculture.
With more introduction of agriculture, the population grew and more land became cultivated. By the 11th and 12th centuries a more advanced society was beginning to emerge, even though most villages were still self-sufficient, long distance trade was developing. Copper mining was intensified and copper crosses were probably used as a currency. Ivory was an export and cotton textiles an import. One of the best known archaeological sites for this period is in Gombe IIede near Siavonga close to the Kariba dam, uncovered in 1960. The increase in trade resulted in larger political units and more complex social structures.
However, it is believed the Portuguese first came in 1720 to Zumba, Mozambique, just across the Luangwa river from Zambia, at the confluence with the Zambezi River. Around 1820 they had settled on the Zambian side at Feira (now Luangwa) so it is very likely they were visiting Zambian territory between 1720 and 1820.
A two – stage election held in October and December 1962 resulted in an African majority in the legislative council and an uneasy coalition between the two African nationalist parties. The council passed resolutions calling for northern Rhodesia’s succession from the federation and demanding full internal self-government under a new Constitution and a new national assembly based on a broader, more democratic franchise. On 31st December 1963, the federation was dissolved, and Northern Rhodesia became the republic of Zambia on 24 October 1964.
At Independence, despite its considerable mineral wealth, Zambia faced major challenges. Domestically, there were few trained and educated Zambians capable of running the government, and the economy was largely dependent on foreign expertise. Most of Zambia’s neighboring countries were still colonies or under white minority rule. After some reasoning Kenneth Kaunda was elected prime minister, and later the same year president, as the country adopted a presidential system. Kaunda adopted an ideology of African socialism, close to that of Julius Nyerere in Tanzania. Economical policies focused on central planning and nationalisation.
However, the one party rule and the declining economy created disappointment among the people. Several strikes hit the country in 1981. The government responded by arresting several union leaders among them Frederick Chiluba. In 1986 and 1987 protests arose again in Lusaka and the copper belt. These were followed by the riots over rising food prices in 1990, in which at least 30 people were killed. The same year the state owned radio claimed that Kaunda had been removed from office by the army. This was not true and the 1990 Zambian coup d’ etat attempt failed.