Ngongo Mbata, the main and most affluent center of the Kongo kingdom’s
Mbata province in the seventeenth century, is well known from the historical sources, but
virtually unexplored in archaeological publications. Ngongo Mbata is unique in that it
hosted a monumental stone building about which the historical record remains silent. This
makes it particularly challenging from the point of view of historical archaeology. In this
paper historical data, unpublished excavation results from the 1930s and our own
fieldwork undertaken in 2012–13 are brought together, to tell a new story of early
African-European contacts in the interior of West Central Africa.