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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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Selected K2, Transitional K2 and Mapungubwe ceramics from Mapela Hill.
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pone-0111224-g011: Selected K2, Transitional K2 and Mapungubwe ceramics from Mapela Hill.

Mentions: Only domestic pottery and glass beads were typologically and stratigraphically analysed to determine the sequence of occupation and the identity of the inhabitants of Mapela. Since the ceramic and bead sequences in southern Africa are reasonably well dated and are reproducible, it is easy to cross-date new sites by comparing their ceramics and beads to established types [21]; [30]. With high levels of stratigraphic integrity, Terrace Excavation Trench 1 provided useful insights for building ceramic and bead sequences on the terrace. The ceramics were analysed using the standard typological technique of considering vessel shape, decoration position, technique and motif (see [21]). The main indication from the typological analysis was that typical K2 pottery (Early Leopard's Kopje) dominates the bottom of the sequence with transitional K2 ceramics in the intermediate layers. Mapungubwe (Late Leopard's Kopje/Early Zimbabwe culture) ceramics became more frequent from the middle to upper layers of the sequence (see Figure 11 for selected illustrations). The same pattern was also mirrored in Lower Summit Excavation Trench 1 where the bottom layers were dominated by K2 pottery, followed by transitional and Mapungubwe pottery. Occasional Zhizo ceramics were recovered in all excavation areas but more work is required to interpret the implications of this association. Therefore, the ceramic sequence at Mapela consists of all the major pottery phases associated with socio-political complexity in the Middle Limpopo Valley – Zhizo, K2, Transitional K2 and Mapungubwe.


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)

Selected K2, Transitional K2 and Mapungubwe ceramics from Mapela Hill.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0111224-g011: Selected K2, Transitional K2 and Mapungubwe ceramics from Mapela Hill.
Mentions: Only domestic pottery and glass beads were typologically and stratigraphically analysed to determine the sequence of occupation and the identity of the inhabitants of Mapela. Since the ceramic and bead sequences in southern Africa are reasonably well dated and are reproducible, it is easy to cross-date new sites by comparing their ceramics and beads to established types [21]; [30]. With high levels of stratigraphic integrity, Terrace Excavation Trench 1 provided useful insights for building ceramic and bead sequences on the terrace. The ceramics were analysed using the standard typological technique of considering vessel shape, decoration position, technique and motif (see [21]). The main indication from the typological analysis was that typical K2 pottery (Early Leopard's Kopje) dominates the bottom of the sequence with transitional K2 ceramics in the intermediate layers. Mapungubwe (Late Leopard's Kopje/Early Zimbabwe culture) ceramics became more frequent from the middle to upper layers of the sequence (see Figure 11 for selected illustrations). The same pattern was also mirrored in Lower Summit Excavation Trench 1 where the bottom layers were dominated by K2 pottery, followed by transitional and Mapungubwe pottery. Occasional Zhizo ceramics were recovered in all excavation areas but more work is required to interpret the implications of this association. Therefore, the ceramic sequence at Mapela consists of all the major pottery phases associated with socio-political complexity in the Middle Limpopo Valley – Zhizo, K2, Transitional K2 and Mapungubwe.

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