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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

Map of Mapungubwe (CE1220–1290) (after Huffman, 2007): Note the limited number of walls and small size when compared with Mapela.
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pone-0111224-g017: Map of Mapungubwe (CE1220–1290) (after Huffman, 2007): Note the limited number of walls and small size when compared with Mapela.

Mentions: Having demonstrated the presence of élite Zimbabwe culture attributes from the K2 period onwards, emphasis now shifts to the Mapungubwe occupation. Just as Mapela was much larger than K2, it was also bigger than Mapungubwe. Figures 16 and 17 place side by side, respectively, the complete maps of Mapela and Mapungubwe, and decisively show that the former is considerably bigger than the latter. This incontrovertibly refutes Garlake's initial assumption that Mapela is much smaller than Mapungubwe. While the Mapungubwe hilltop is elongated with only one terrace platform (Figure 17), that of Mapela is much wider with substantially more walling. Fundamentally, where Mapela Hill is heavily terraced along most of its contours, Mapungubwe is not. The enormous size of the walls at Mapela (Figure 4), and the labour evidently invested in constructing terraces, far exceeds that reported for the Leopard's Kopje sites in southern Africa. On the basis of this new data, it is undeniable that southern African archaeologists relied too much on Garlake's account without visiting the site themselves. The result was that Mapela was made to suit different explanatory frameworks while using erroneous assumptions.


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)

Map of Mapungubwe (CE1220–1290) (after Huffman, 2007): Note the limited number of walls and small size when compared with Mapela.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0111224-g017: Map of Mapungubwe (CE1220–1290) (after Huffman, 2007): Note the limited number of walls and small size when compared with Mapela.
Mentions: Having demonstrated the presence of élite Zimbabwe culture attributes from the K2 period onwards, emphasis now shifts to the Mapungubwe occupation. Just as Mapela was much larger than K2, it was also bigger than Mapungubwe. Figures 16 and 17 place side by side, respectively, the complete maps of Mapela and Mapungubwe, and decisively show that the former is considerably bigger than the latter. This incontrovertibly refutes Garlake's initial assumption that Mapela is much smaller than Mapungubwe. While the Mapungubwe hilltop is elongated with only one terrace platform (Figure 17), that of Mapela is much wider with substantially more walling. Fundamentally, where Mapela Hill is heavily terraced along most of its contours, Mapungubwe is not. The enormous size of the walls at Mapela (Figure 4), and the labour evidently invested in constructing terraces, far exceeds that reported for the Leopard's Kopje sites in southern Africa. On the basis of this new data, it is undeniable that southern African archaeologists relied too much on Garlake's account without visiting the site themselves. The result was that Mapela was made to suit different explanatory frameworks while using erroneous assumptions.

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