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 Post subject: Mapungubwe hill - Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:29 am 
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A while ago I watched a program on TV about Mapungubwe hill, what history! I love reading about and visiting the "ghosts" from the past.
Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site
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History of the Park
Kings & Riches

The heydays of the Mapungubwe area started around 900 AD when Zhizo people moved down from present day Zimbabwe and settled in the basin of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers. They established their capital on a slope overlooking the Limpopo on the present Schroda farm. These 300 to 500 people herded cattle, farmed grains and hunted elephants for their ivory. Excavations at Schroda also uncovered exotic glass beads. They prove that the Indian Ocean ivory trade had reached Southern Africa by that time.

Arab dhows (small boats) traveled with the yearly monsoon up and down the African eastern coast looking for ivory, gold, rhino horn, leopard skin and iron from the interior of Africa. They exchanged these goods for items like glass beads, cotton and silk cloths and glazed ceramics. For a century Zhizo people were in control of this trade in the Limpopo valley.

Around 1020 AD the so called Leopard’s Kopje people moved north in the basin and replaced the Zhizo chiefdom, which moved west into present-day Botswana. According to experts the pottery of the Leopard’s Kopje people suggests they spoke Kalanga, an early form of Western Shona. The capital was on a site now called K2, which was home to approximately 1500 people.

Excavations at K2 yielded graves, evidence of copper and iron working, a lot of ivory and many glass beads. The mostly blue or green beads were imported but some of them were melted down and made into larger beads, called ‘garden rollers’. Those were made by K2-craftsmen but are found hundreds of kilometers away – attaining to a well-developed network in the interior.

During the K2-period the area was wetter than before and than nowadays. The Limpopo was flowing the whole year around and the people were able to cultivate sorghum, millet, ground beans and cowpeas.

The wealth that the K2 people accumulated through farming and especially trade lead to a social division. In these days the commoners moved a few hundred meters to settle in the valley around Mapungubwe Hill. The king and some other elite people moved up and inhabited the hill itself. Royalty lived directly around the hill. This is the first time south of the Sahara that a sacred leader physically separated him from its followers.

Between 5000 and 9000 people inhabited the Mapungubwe area, which makes it the largest known settlement in Southern Africa during those days.

After 1270 it was suddenly all over. No signs of forced removal have been found and scientists suspect that a ‘little ice age’ made the area to dry for farming. Overgrazing could also have contributed to the degradation of the soil. The people of Mapungubwe were scattered but whereto is unknown. Certain is that the powerbase and the control over the Indian Ocean trade shifted north to Great Zimbabwe.

The once powerful kingdom fell into oblivion for centuries. The lost city of Mapungubwe was only rediscovered in 1932. Excavations in the 1930s unearthed 23 graves on top of Mapungubwe Hill. Three were different and probably belong to high royalty. The first, probably a woman, was buried in sitting position facing west. She wore over 100 gold bangles around her ankles and there were over 12.000 gold beads and 26.000 glass beads in the grave. The second grave was a tall middle-aged man, also sitting up and facing west. He wore a necklace of gold beads and cowrie shells and some objects covered in gold foil, one resembling a crocodile. In the third grave, probably also from a man, a golden bowl, scepter and a golden rhino were found. Nowadays this rhino is the symbol for Mapungubwe.

The spectacular findings on Mapungubwe Hill and related sites were the most important reason for the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape to be proclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 5 July 2003. Its rich history earns Mapungubwe an important role in the current African Renaissance.

Our National parks are home to so much more than only the living.

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 Post subject: Re: Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 12:32 pm 
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So true. I've never been ther, Neither at Thulamela (but I plan to rectify this in April) or a walking trail where San rock art can be seen.

I still have a long way to go... :redface:

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 Post subject: Re: Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 12:48 pm 
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christo wrote:
So true. I've never been ther, Neither at Thulamela (but I plan to rectify this in April) or a walking trail where San rock art can be seen.

I still have a long way to go... :redface:

So have I, Christo but it's all about the journey, not the destination. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:06 pm 
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Good day!
FYI: Some of the Mapungubwe artifacts can be viewed at the University of Pretoria Main campus (Lynnwood rd, Pretoria).

Kind regards

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 Post subject: Archaeological Sites in Kruger.....
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 6:05 pm 
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This is a topic for any info on Archaeological sites in Kruger...

I enjoy Archaeology and would love to read about what forumites say. :thumbs_up:

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 Post subject: Re: Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:04 pm 
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Thanks Jen for starting this topic :dance: I absolutely love Mapungubwe and off course the history behind it 8)

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...

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Last edited by Jakkalsbessie on Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:07 pm 
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Mapungubwe Hill
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'Other/back side'

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Viewing deck and stairs going up

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Stairs

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 Post subject: Re: Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:23 pm 
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Lovely pics JB :clap:


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 Post subject: Re: Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:25 pm 
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Jenb, I concur with JB.
Thank you so much for starting this thread :thumbs_up:

JB, thank you for your input. As ever, you deliver gold.

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 Post subject: Re: Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 4:27 pm 
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Jakkalsbessie! What a super write-up! :clap:
Thanx. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:02 am 
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Thanks JB :clap:

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 Post subject: Re: Mapungubwe hill - Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2011 4:59 pm 
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Some of the links posted above by Jakkalsbessie are no longer active ...


Jerry van Graan was a scholar when his father told him of an old man he had met on his travels beyond the Blaauwberg mountains . The old man reminisced about a sacred hill where kings once lived where it was rumoured there were clay pots containing treasures of gold , diamonds & emeralds .

In 1932 as teacher in the Soutpansberg region Jerry van Graan was invited on a weekend hunting trip on a farm in the Limpopo valley . While looking for water they came across a kraal on an escarpment , they were given water in an unusuall ceramic container by a local man named Mowena . Jerry van Graan offered to buy the container for a sustantial amount at the time of depression of 1 Kruger pound , but Mowena refused as he said the pot came from a "sacred hill" nearby .

Van Graan questioned Mowena who eventually revealed that the pot was given to him by a french friend named Lotrie (Francois Bernard Lotrie) . Lotrie was a well educated son of a french botanist who chose a life as advenure , exploring , hunting & prospecting for gold , and had acted as guide to David Livingstone .
Van Graan then realised that Mowena was the man his father had met 30 years earlier .
The eccentic Lotrie had at a time in his 80's lived as a recluse in a cave on the slopes of Mapungubwe and had given his friend Mowana the water container . It is said that Lotrie removed large amounts of the treasure to his home at Kalkrand south of the Soutpansberg , but that much of it was washed away in a flash flood , besides a golden bangle which he wore on his right wrist untill his death at the age of 92 in Feb 1917 .

Van Graan tried to find out from him where the sacred hill was , but the 90 year old Mowana refused .
On 28 December 1932 van Graan & others returned and Mowana again fearfully refused , but after some financial persuasion the allmost blind Mowana's son showed them the hill . Shivering with fright and with his back turned to the hill Mowanas son showed them a cleft in the vertical rock behind a large fig tree with a sort of stairway to the top .
On reaching the summit they found boulders balanced on small stones that were ready to be rolled off the edge onto intruders . The previous days cloudburst had exposed potshards , rusted iron tools , copper and glass beads in the soil .
Returning on 1 Jan 1933 the first spadefull of earth revealed golden anklets , iron rings , copper & glass beads , and it was clear they had excavated an ancient grave as it was found amongst brittle bone .
They filled their hats with gold nails , beads and Jerry van Graan held a golden rhino in his hand .

Perhaps through fate and through van Graans luck , foresight & wisdom , these artefacts and many others were preserved where they are on display at the university of Pretoria .

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 Post subject: Re: Mapungubwe hill - Our rich Archaeological history
Unread postPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:48 am 
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Thanks to all who have contributed to this thread.
Well done. :clap: :clap:

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