Mpumalanga – Archaeology in the eastern Highveld of South Africa

The South Africa, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the Witwatersrand University of Johannesburg, headed by Dr. Alex Schoeman, has been researching farming communities in the highlands of eastern South Africa for a long time. The focus here is primarily on the Bokoni, who settled in the northwest and south of what is now Mpumalanga between around 1500 and 1820 CE. They left behind complex complexes of stone ramparts, the remains of extensive settlements and terrace systems that indicate specialized forms of agriculture. The extent to which these agricultural societies came into contact with parallel hunter-gatherer groups has long been of interest. These so-called San inhabited the area long before communities with a production economy of at most 2000 years migrated into the region. To answer this question, a team from the DAI, the University of Tübingen and Wits University began excavations at the Iron Pig Shelter, which is located near the Komati River on the site of the Doornkop Nature Reserve. The excavation uncovered layers dating back to around 16,000 years BP. The early inventories, which belong to the so-called Later Stone Age (LSA), already show interesting technological changes in the stone tool industry. The evaluation of the more recent finds is still ongoing and promises exciting insights into this topic in the region.


Prof. Dr. Jörg Linstädter


Dr. Gregor Donatus Bader

Universität Tübingen

Nina Stahl B.A.

Universität Tübingen

Cooperation partners

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

Figure captions

Fig. 1 Remains of dry stone walls as witnesses of homesteads and demarcation of farmland [photo by J. Linstädter]

Fig. 2 Students from the Witwatersrand University of Johannesburg and the Universities of Hamburg and Tübingen [photy by J. Linstädter]

Fig. 3 Rock engravings in the immediate vicinity of the walls [photy by J. Linstädter]

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