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Cultural Importance

The cultural resources of the Limpopo-Shashe basin are generally associated with Iron Age settlements of around 1200 AD. The similarity of ivory objects, pottery remains and imported glass beads excavated at different sites that spread across the modern international borders of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe attests to the cultural affinity of the people that lived in the Limpopo-Shashe basin during the Iron Age.

The Iron Age archaeological sites of Mapungubwe, K2, Leokwe and the Schroda site in the Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa, and the Mmamagwe site in Botswana are amongst the best-studied Iron Age sites in southern Africa. They represent the Zhizo, K2 and Mapungubwe Iron Age cultures that existed in this region roughly between 600 AD and 1300 AD. Small Iron Age sites postdating this period have also been recorded in the area, including stonewalled sites on hilltops and Khami-type ruins.

Mapungubwe is renowned for the golden rhino and is believed to be the precursor of Great Zimbabwe, the most remarkable Iron Age site in southern Africa. The Mapungubwe landscape was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in July 2003. Other important archaeological sites are at Toutswe Mogala and Mmamagwe in Botswana. Several sites are also situated on Sentinel Ranch and Mapela Hill in Zimbabwe.

Additional features of cultural importance in the Limpopo valley are the numerous San rock paintings and engravings (petroglyphs), fossilised dinosaur footprints and skeletal remains of the dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus that became extinct approximately 65 million years ago.