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Zimbabwe culture before Mapungubwe: new evidence from Mapela Hill, South-Western Zimbabwe.

Chirikure S, Manyanga M, Pollard AM, Bandama F, Mahachi G, Pikirayi I - PLoS ONE (2014)

Bottom Line: Firstly, Mapela possesses enormous prestige stone-walled terraces whose initial construction date from the 11th century CE, almost two hundred years earlier than Mapungubwe.Secondly, the basal levels of the Mapela terraces and hilltop contain élite solid dhaka (adobe) floors associated with K2 pottery and glass beads.This demands not just fresh ways of accounting for the rise of socio-political complexity in southern Africa, but also significant adjustments to existing models.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

ABSTRACT
Across the globe, the emergence of complex societies excites intense academic debate in archaeology and allied disciplines. Not surprisingly, in southern Africa the traditional assumption that the evolution of socio-political complexity began with ideological transformations from K2 to Mapungubwe between CE1200 and 1220 is clouded in controversy. It is believed that the K2-Mapungubwe transitions crystallised class distinction and sacred leadership, thought to be the key elements of the Zimbabwe culture on Mapungubwe Hill long before they emerged anywhere else. From Mapungubwe (CE1220-1290), the Zimbabwe culture was expressed at Great Zimbabwe (CE1300-1450) and eventually Khami (CE1450-1820). However, new fieldwork at Mapela Hill, when coupled with a Bayesian chronology, offers tremendous fresh insights which refute this orthodoxy. Firstly, Mapela possesses enormous prestige stone-walled terraces whose initial construction date from the 11th century CE, almost two hundred years earlier than Mapungubwe. Secondly, the basal levels of the Mapela terraces and hilltop contain élite solid dhaka (adobe) floors associated with K2 pottery and glass beads. Thirdly, with a hilltop and flat area occupation since the 11th century CE, Mapela exhibits evidence of class distinction and sacred leadership earlier than K2 and Mapungubwe, the supposed propagators of the Zimbabwe culture. Fourthly, Mapungubwe material culture only appeared later in the Mapela sequence and therefore post-dates the earliest appearance of stone walling and dhaka floors at the site. Since stone walls, dhaka floors and class distinction are the essence of the Zimbabwe culture, their earlier appearance at Mapela suggests that Mapungubwe can no longer be regarded as the sole cradle of the Zimbabwe culture. This demands not just fresh ways of accounting for the rise of socio-political complexity in southern Africa, but also significant adjustments to existing models.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

The extensive terrace walls where Excavation Area 2 (Terrace Excavation) (see Figure 5) was situated: Note the buffalo grass on the top section of the terrace and dung clearly visible on the edges without grass.
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pone-0111224-g004: The extensive terrace walls where Excavation Area 2 (Terrace Excavation) (see Figure 5) was situated: Note the buffalo grass on the top section of the terrace and dung clearly visible on the edges without grass.

Mentions: A dedicated pedestrian survey was conducted across the entire site. In the process, extensive terraces (Figure 4), vitrified dung and middens with a mix of fauna, pottery, metal objects and occasional glass and shell beads were recorded on the flats, terraces and hilltop. On both the terraces and hilltop, erosion often exposed a succession of fired dhaka or Zimbabwe cement floors (Figure 5). Surprisingly, for a stone-walled Leopard's Kopje site, vitrified dung was recorded on numerous terraces and flats pointing to the presence of kraals on and below the hill. It has been argued that with the advent of the Zimbabwe culture, cattle kraals were sited away from residential areas (7) but Mapela clearly contradicts such thinking. Surface pottery comprised a mixture of K2 (Figure 6) and Mapungubwe ceramics, with occasional Zhizo sherds. On the western side, the main hill narrows into a smaller kopje which is conjoined to the site of Little Mapela. When these observations are reconciled with Garlake's (17) report, it becomes immediately obvious that only the summit of the main hill was mapped, thereby excluding approximately three quarters of the site. Unfortunately, this underestimation of Mapela's size has given it a subordinate role to Mapungubwe, when the opposite is true if settlement size is the only variable that determines political importance.


Zimbabwe culture before Mapungubwe: new evidence from Mapela Hill, South-Western Zimbabwe.

Chirikure S, Manyanga M, Pollard AM, Bandama F, Mahachi G, Pikirayi I - PLoS ONE (2014)

The extensive terrace walls where Excavation Area 2 (Terrace Excavation) (see Figure 5) was situated: Note the buffalo grass on the top section of the terrace and dung clearly visible on the edges without grass.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4215987&req=5

pone-0111224-g004: The extensive terrace walls where Excavation Area 2 (Terrace Excavation) (see Figure 5) was situated: Note the buffalo grass on the top section of the terrace and dung clearly visible on the edges without grass.
Mentions: A dedicated pedestrian survey was conducted across the entire site. In the process, extensive terraces (Figure 4), vitrified dung and middens with a mix of fauna, pottery, metal objects and occasional glass and shell beads were recorded on the flats, terraces and hilltop. On both the terraces and hilltop, erosion often exposed a succession of fired dhaka or Zimbabwe cement floors (Figure 5). Surprisingly, for a stone-walled Leopard's Kopje site, vitrified dung was recorded on numerous terraces and flats pointing to the presence of kraals on and below the hill. It has been argued that with the advent of the Zimbabwe culture, cattle kraals were sited away from residential areas (7) but Mapela clearly contradicts such thinking. Surface pottery comprised a mixture of K2 (Figure 6) and Mapungubwe ceramics, with occasional Zhizo sherds. On the western side, the main hill narrows into a smaller kopje which is conjoined to the site of Little Mapela. When these observations are reconciled with Garlake's (17) report, it becomes immediately obvious that only the summit of the main hill was mapped, thereby excluding approximately three quarters of the site. Unfortunately, this underestimation of Mapela's size has given it a subordinate role to Mapungubwe, when the opposite is true if settlement size is the only variable that determines political importance.

Bottom Line: Firstly, Mapela possesses enormous prestige stone-walled terraces whose initial construction date from the 11th century CE, almost two hundred years earlier than Mapungubwe.Secondly, the basal levels of the Mapela terraces and hilltop contain élite solid dhaka (adobe) floors associated with K2 pottery and glass beads.This demands not just fresh ways of accounting for the rise of socio-political complexity in southern Africa, but also significant adjustments to existing models.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

ABSTRACT
Across the globe, the emergence of complex societies excites intense academic debate in archaeology and allied disciplines. Not surprisingly, in southern Africa the traditional assumption that the evolution of socio-political complexity began with ideological transformations from K2 to Mapungubwe between CE1200 and 1220 is clouded in controversy. It is believed that the K2-Mapungubwe transitions crystallised class distinction and sacred leadership, thought to be the key elements of the Zimbabwe culture on Mapungubwe Hill long before they emerged anywhere else. From Mapungubwe (CE1220-1290), the Zimbabwe culture was expressed at Great Zimbabwe (CE1300-1450) and eventually Khami (CE1450-1820). However, new fieldwork at Mapela Hill, when coupled with a Bayesian chronology, offers tremendous fresh insights which refute this orthodoxy. Firstly, Mapela possesses enormous prestige stone-walled terraces whose initial construction date from the 11th century CE, almost two hundred years earlier than Mapungubwe. Secondly, the basal levels of the Mapela terraces and hilltop contain élite solid dhaka (adobe) floors associated with K2 pottery and glass beads. Thirdly, with a hilltop and flat area occupation since the 11th century CE, Mapela exhibits evidence of class distinction and sacred leadership earlier than K2 and Mapungubwe, the supposed propagators of the Zimbabwe culture. Fourthly, Mapungubwe material culture only appeared later in the Mapela sequence and therefore post-dates the earliest appearance of stone walling and dhaka floors at the site. Since stone walls, dhaka floors and class distinction are the essence of the Zimbabwe culture, their earlier appearance at Mapela suggests that Mapungubwe can no longer be regarded as the sole cradle of the Zimbabwe culture. This demands not just fresh ways of accounting for the rise of socio-political complexity in southern Africa, but also significant adjustments to existing models.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus