In southern Africa, the Later Stone Age and the Early Iron Age are generally treated as separate archaeologies, as if they really were different periods. In fact, the entire Iron Age overlaps with the last part of the Later Stone Age, and it is argued here that at the sub-continental scale the archaeology of one ‘Age’ might be better understood with reference to the other. The point is illustrated by plotting the distribution of all first millennium ceramics on the same map, regardless of their ‘Age.’ This sheds new light on the history of interactions and perhaps population movements in the sub-continent during the first millennium AD.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

Kweneng is an extensive aggregation of stone-walled ruins that represent a pre-colonial Tswana capital. It is located 30 km south of today’s Johannesburg. The Molokwane architectural style predominates at this site. This style dates from around the mid- eighteenth to the mid- nineteenth centuries AD. The northern sector of Kweneng contains some structures in an architectural style from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries AD. Scattered here and there on the fringes of Kweneng are Type N compounds, which represent the oldest architectural style in this region and date to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries AD. With a long sequence from formation to collapse, Kweneng will shed light not only on the birth of complex urban society in this region, but also in more distant times and places where the evidence might be considerably less intact. This preliminary report introduces the site and the principal features of its built environment.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Conventional wisdom has it that ceramic technology reached southernmost Africa with or just ahead of the so-called Iron Age, Bantu migrations of ca 2000 years ago. A review of the evidence suggests that the earliest ceramics in the subcontinent are thin-walled and smooth surfaced vessels, technologically quite distinct from the first thick-walled, coarse surfaced “Iron Age” ware of the subcontinent, and predating the latter by two to four centuries. There is no published evidence of a thin-walled ware to the north of the Zambezi, although undated examples are known from coastal Angola. It seems unlikely that the thin-walled wares in southernmost Africa represent a residue of some mass human migration in the distant past. It is more likely that the art of making fired clay pots reached the subcontinent through archaeologically invisible infiltrations by small groups, perhaps peripatetic artisans; or it may have been invented locally.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

The Europeans who landed on the shores of the South African Cape from the late 15th century onwards encountered local herders whom they later referred to as the Hottentots (now known as the Khoekhoe). There are written references to the settlements and livestock of these pastoralists, but archaeologists have not had much success in discovering any such sites. This absence of archaeological evidence for recent Khoekhoe kraals has been interpreted by some scholars as an indication for a general archaeological invisibility of nomadic pastoralist sites. This article reports on the archaeology of an extensive, low density surface spread of artefacts, KFS 5 (Western Cape), which possibly represents a Khoekhoe kraal dating to the time of the first contact with Europeans. Data are compared to other archaeological evidence of cattle pens in southern Africa and the issues of the visibility of prehistoric and historic kraals are re-addressed.

In: Journal of African Archaeology