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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

Modelled dates from Levels 7, 9, and 13 to 19, Excavation Area 2 (Terrace Excavation), Trench 1.
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pone-0111224-g013: Modelled dates from Levels 7, 9, and 13 to 19, Excavation Area 2 (Terrace Excavation), Trench 1.

Mentions: The dates were modelled following Bayesian techniques in the software OxCal version 4.2.3 at Oxford University's Research Laboratory for the History of Archaeology and Art. Bayesian models are conditional probabilities which allow for pre-existing information to be incorporated into the current data, to permit the development of an integrated interpretation process [33]. The prior distribution of the unknown parameter Ø is updated, on observing the realised value of the data X, to the posterior distribution, through Bayes' law. Inference about Ø is then extracted from this posterior. The prior is a formal statement of what is known before the process of data collection, while the posterior is the desired outcome. Bayes' theorem relates posterior likelihood X to the prior. Based on the stratigraphy, and the observation that K2 ceramics and glass beads were at the bottom, followed by transitional pottery and Mapungubwe material culture, a sequence model was run in OxCal version 4.2.3 [34], assuming that the dates at the bottom are older than those above. The recommended Southern Hemisphere Calibration Curve (SHCA13) was used as it was developed using dendrochronologically dated wood from the corresponding hemisphere [35], [36]. Because the dates were from a single stratified sequence, all the dates were combined into a single model. The inbuilt SPAN factor in OxCal version 4.2.3 was used to develop the intervals of occupation between K2 and Transitional K2 on the one hand, and Transitional K2 and Mapungubwe on the other. The results are shown in Table 3 and Figure 13.


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)

Modelled dates from Levels 7, 9, and 13 to 19, Excavation Area 2 (Terrace Excavation), Trench 1.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0111224-g013: Modelled dates from Levels 7, 9, and 13 to 19, Excavation Area 2 (Terrace Excavation), Trench 1.
Mentions: The dates were modelled following Bayesian techniques in the software OxCal version 4.2.3 at Oxford University's Research Laboratory for the History of Archaeology and Art. Bayesian models are conditional probabilities which allow for pre-existing information to be incorporated into the current data, to permit the development of an integrated interpretation process [33]. The prior distribution of the unknown parameter Ø is updated, on observing the realised value of the data X, to the posterior distribution, through Bayes' law. Inference about Ø is then extracted from this posterior. The prior is a formal statement of what is known before the process of data collection, while the posterior is the desired outcome. Bayes' theorem relates posterior likelihood X to the prior. Based on the stratigraphy, and the observation that K2 ceramics and glass beads were at the bottom, followed by transitional pottery and Mapungubwe material culture, a sequence model was run in OxCal version 4.2.3 [34], assuming that the dates at the bottom are older than those above. The recommended Southern Hemisphere Calibration Curve (SHCA13) was used as it was developed using dendrochronologically dated wood from the corresponding hemisphere [35], [36]. Because the dates were from a single stratified sequence, all the dates were combined into a single model. The inbuilt SPAN factor in OxCal version 4.2.3 was used to develop the intervals of occupation between K2 and Transitional K2 on the one hand, and Transitional K2 and Mapungubwe on the other. The results are shown in Table 3 and Figure 13.

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