Centuries the rich History of South Africa dating back about 2000 years
was hidden from its people. The fact that Bantu speaking peoples of the
region had a highly civilized existence hundreds of years before the
first Europeans arrived was simply too much for the oppressive
government of the day to bear.
the left some of the gold artifacts uncovered. The events above
unfolded close to the confluence of the Shashi and Limpopo rivers in the
Messina district where two hills separated by a valley on the land
Greefswald - the one named Bambandyanalo and the other Mapungubwe. In
1932 a man named van Graan (farmer - prospector) discovered that the
summit of the Mapungubwe Hill was littered with pottery, upon closer
inspection and further digging two kilograms of pure gold foil, along
with beads and ornaments was uncovered. The pure gold foil artifacts
were each meticulously tacked with tiny golden nails that covered the
now perished wooden rhinos and elephants.
the gold necklace. The 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. At first Van Graan
decided to keep quiet, but later the find was reported at the University
of Pretoria. Greefswald was bought by the government of the day.
Although the University of Pretoria excavated the site ever since 1932
it was kept top secret. The findings provided evidence contrary to the
racist ideology of black inferiority that underpinned apartheid.
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
apartheid regime remained tight lipped for more than 40 years. The
evidence was only made public a few years after the first democratically
elected government came into power (1994)
was home to an advanced culture of people. The civilization thrived as a
sophisticated trading center from around 1200 to 1300 AD. It was the
center of the largest kingdom in the sub-continent, where a highly
sophisticated people traded gold and ivory with China, India and Egypt.
The region had a population of more than 5 000 inhabitants.
the advent of radiocarbon dating in the 1950's, it was discovered that
nearby Bambandyanalo had been settled 300 years before Mapangubwe, in
about 1000 AD, and that its people had been in continuous occupation for
200 years. Archeologists also uncovered human burials that contained
glass beads and copper bracelets along with profusely decorated pottery
bowls, pots and beakers. Animal burials consisting of skulls or jawbones
also contained copper ornaments, seashells and pottery fragments.
was mined in haematite at Ngwenya, and iron ore and copper at Phalaborwa.
Virtually all the copper and tin deposits of the Northern Transvaal were
worked, and hundreds of workings remain.
Moloko Pottery of the Later Iron Age was banded and stamped decorated,
with tapered or out-turned rims, and occurs mainly at sites between the
Witwatersrand and the Magaliesberg. Phalaborwa pottery shows little
change in 400 years and bears simple, cut designs originally produced by
Venda speaking people, even up till today.
more than 800 years later the Iron Age was one of stability in South
Africa. People learnt to spin and weave fibers into cloth, to twist and
plait ropes, and there was a greater reliance on domestic livestock as a
source of meat. Millets, cotton and sorghum were the staple crops,
supplemented by maize after contact with Portuguese traders. Trade with
the Mozambique coast increased dramatically during the Later Iron Age.
only question left for all to answer is how come a highly civilized
nation that traded in peace and harmony with Arab, Chinese and Indian
traders lost everything they had? The answer might be with South African
universities that has a rich collection of artifacts?
excavations revealed a court sheltered in a natural amphitheatre at the
bottom of the hill, with an elite graveyard at the top. The
investigations and research continue.
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