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The Southern Waterberg in Limpopo Province is archaeologically rich, especially when it comes to evidence of pre-colonial mining and metal working. Geologically, the area hosts important mineral resources such as copper, tin and iron which were smelted by agriculturalists in the precolonial period. In this region however, tin seems to be the major attraction given that Rooiberg is still the only source of cassiterite in southern Africa to have provided evidence of mining before European colonization. This paper reports the results of archaeological and archaeometallurgical work which was carried out in order to reconstruct the technology of metalworking as well as the cultural interaction in the study area and beyond. The ceramic evidence shows that from the Eiland Phase (1000–1300 AD) onwards there was cross borrowing of characteristic decorative traits amongst extant groups that later on culminated in the creation of a new ceramic group known as Rooiberg. In terms of mining and metal working, XRF and SEM analyses, when coupled with optical microscopy, indicate the use of indigenous bloomery techniques that are widespread in pre-colonial southern Africa. Tin and bronze production was also represented and their production remains also pin down this metallurgy to particular sites and excludes the possibility of importing of finished tin and bronze objects into this area.

In: Journal of African Archaeology