Thanks Jen for starting this topic
I absolutely love Mapungubwe and off course the history behind it
Amazing to read how the Van Graan's 'discovered' the site on 31 December 1932 etc
More can be read here
Van Graan's handwritten letter about the discovery of Mapungubwe and a lot more info can be found here
It also shows some of the K2 Clay figurines and maps of the excavations etc, for those who want to read even more.
Some more interesting info:
Mapungubwe is the site of three royal graves and was the center of a terraced settlement. Stonewalls buttressed the slopes and homesteads were scattered about. The king and his soldiers lived near the top of the hill and were supported by the people on the lower levels. The neighbouring village of K2 indicates that the inhabitants were subsistence farmers, raising both stock and crops. A valuable feature of K2 is the large central refuse site, from which archaeologists have been able to glean a store of information. Human remains from various graves indicate that these communities enjoyed a healthy, varied diet. People were prosperous and kept domesticated cattle, sheep, goats and dogs. The charred remains of storage huts have also been found, showing that millet, sorghum and cotton were cultivated.
Findings on Greefswald are typical of the Iron Age. Pottery, wood, ivory, bone, ostrich eggshells and the shells of snails and freshwater mussels indicate that many other materials were used and traded with cultures as far away as East Africa, Persia, Egypt, India and China.
It seems foreign trade was an important part of life in the area. K2 – AN IRON AGE SITE
: at the foot of Bambandyanalo Hill
K2 is I km southwest of Mapungubwe Hill in a small valley surrounded by cliffs. G A Gardner, who excavated there during the 1930’s, named K2. Between about AD 1030 and AD 1220, for nearly 200 years, many generations of farming people lived at K2. The main site of about 5 hectares includes the remains of a central homestead area, a central cattle kraal and a central midden, surrounded by smaller homesteads.EVIDENCE OF DAILY LIFE AT K2
The village of a successful farming and trading community
K2 is a particularly large Iron Age site with vast deposits containing a wealth of artifacts such as glass beads and pottery, often found in the numerous graves of the villagers. Huge quantities of bone fragments from slaughtered domestic animals and burnt seeds of domesticated plants such as sorghum and bullrush millet indicate that the K2 people were successful farmers. They were generally healthy people due to their nutritious diet. They were skilled craftsmen who produced characteristic pottery, large glass beads, tools and body ornaments of iron, copper bangles and figurines of humans and domesticated animals. They hunted elephants and traded the ivory for glass beads imported via the African East Coast by traders such as the Swahili.MAPUNGUBWE
Mapungubwe Hill is a sandstone hill with vertical cliffs and a flat top approximately 30m high and 300, long. A substantial deposit with layers of soil covers it; remains of floors, burnt houses and household refuse. The Southern Terrace below was inhabited from around AD 1030 to 1290 (about 260 years). The hilltop was inhabited for about 70 years from AD 1220 to Ad 1290.GOLD SYMBOLS
The gold objects from the Mapungubwe graves, such as the rhinoceros, sceptre and bowl, were originally gold sheet or foil covering wooden carvings. The gold sheet was folded around the wooden core and held in place with tacks. In some cases, the gold cover was decorated with punched indentations or incised lines.
Some of these objects, such as the sceptre and rhinoceros, were possibly symbols associated with a person of special significance or high status, such as a king. The person was eventually buried with these objects in accordance with traditional customs and social or religious beliefs. Numerous beads and bangles from graves on Mapungubwe Hill indicate that some members of the community adorned themselves with different types of golden jewellery. These ornaments probably belonged to senior members of the royal family at Mapungubwe.
The 3 graves / burials from Mapungubwe hill and main objects found:M1
– the original gold grave/burial – golden rhinoceros;M5
- Sceptre skeleton - gold sceptre;M7
- Gold burial - about 12000 golden beads.
The arrangements of the bones (and placement of the golden objects) in M7 is reminiscent of the Thulamela male burial – and thought to also be a secondary burial.
The bodies in these 3 graves were buried in the upright seated position associated with royalty. GLASS BEADS
: TRADITIONS AND TRADE
Thousands of glass beads have been found in the middens and graves at K2 and Mapungubwe. Burial customs show that children and adults wore strings of beads in a traditional African way. Large quantities of these beads were traded through Swahili ports on the East coast of Africa. Trade beads were imported from foreign countries such as Egypt or India in exchange for ivory and gold from Africa.
As Jen mentioned the K2 people manufactured large beads, known as garden roller beads. Whole and broken trade glass beads were melted and the molten glass was wound into a prefabricated clay mould to set. The clay mould was then broken to remove the new garden roller glass bead. These are the oldest glass objects made in Southern Africa.
All this findings not only provided evidence of early gold smelting in southern Africa, but of the extensive wealth and social differentiation of the people of Mapungubwe.
According to the archaeology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Mapungubwe represents "the most complex society in southern Africa and is the root of the origins of Zimbabwean culture". It is testimony to a civilization that existed and flourished years before European occupation.
It is probably the earliest known site in southern Africa where evidence of a class-based society existed (Mapungubwe's leaders were separated from the rest of the inhabitants).
Between 1200 and 1300 AD, the Mapungubwe region was the centre of trade in southern Africa. Wealth came to the region from ivory and later from gold deposits that were found in Zimbabwe. The area was also agriculturally rich because of large-scale flooding in the area. The wealth in the area led to differences between rich and poor. Mapungubwe's fortune only lasted until about 1300, after which time climate changes, resulting in the area becoming colder and drier, led to migrations further north to Great Zimbabwe.This
is also a nice site to read and see more...