Research diggings have continued since 1933, and will probably continue for many years to come.
Ai, I wish that was true! The last years only a few projects have taken place, mainly aimed at erosion-prevention so nothing will be washed away when there is eventually funding for more diggings & research.
...but I do question why this site is being singled out above all other culturally and historically rich sites (asides from possibly Maropeng) that the country has to offer.
...the current punting of this particular site in the press, both locally and internationally by both tourism agencies and politicians, seems to far exceed the historical and cultural value raised by the archaeologists themselves. In doing so, have they not overshadowed and diminished value of our other cultural and historically important sites around the country?
Those are very relevant questions, Scottm! I think firstly, the significance of the Shroda (from 900AD), K2 and Mapungubwe (untill 1270AD) societies should not be underestimated. These were highly organized cultures, which show many characteristics that symbolize the strenght of South Africa in a non-white way:
- Strong economy, symbolized by the golden rhino and other golden objects
- Mining industry, mainly copper and iron asfar as I know
- Wide international relations, the people at K2 and Mapungubwe were part of a huge international trading network, linking to Egypt and Asia (via the Indian Ocean coastal trade).
For many years Great Zimbabwe was hailed as the first, organized strong city state in this part of the world, but Mapungubwe dates from before that - historians/archaeologists argue about the link between the two civilizations but there seems to be one. Archaeologists also disagree with some of the oral history that has formed the Mapungubwe-story, but it I think that the importance of a site is partly established by the significance it has gained through the years. (If this makes any sense...)
Under the National Party government Mapungubwe was not part of school curriculum or other public publications - it is believed that this was because it did not 'fit' in the history of black people that the NP was promoting. I think this fact increased the attention of the ANC government for Mapungubwe - and it was the former president (Thabo Mbeki) himself who decided that Mapungubwe should play an important role in his 'African Renaisance'.
So yes, there definately always has been politics involved in this area! Remember, prime-minister Jan Smuts wanted to declare the area a National Park back in the 1940s (for botanical and cultural reasons) but this was reversed after the NP formed a government.
Politics aside, I do think there are valid reasons to give Mapungubwe's history a lot of attention and I don't think this overshadows other sites. part of the attention is political, but not necessarily for the wrong reasons (those characteristics) - I would say.
NB Personally I don't like all the attention for Mapungubwe and I want to discourage people of going there. No animals, no scenery, stupid history... (Hehe, like to keep it a bit private...)