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  • Author or Editor: Maria H. Schoeman x

Maria H. Schoeman, Byron Aub, John Burrows, Grant Hall and Stephan Woodborne

Abstract

Terrace farming flourished in Bokoni from the sixteenth century CE onwards. Bokoni farmers’ resilience strategies, however, were severely tested during the third occupation phase (approx. 1780 to 1840 CE), when the mfecane destabilised the region. In order to reflect on the environmental conditions Bokoni farmers faced in this period the stable carbon isotope proxy rainfall records from Prunus africana and Pittosporum viridiflorum specimens that grew on the Buffelskloof site were studied. Because the Buffelskloof records postdate the occupation, the records are compared with a 1000-year Adansonia digitata rainfall proxy record from the Pafuri region. Deviations between the two are attributed to the juvenile effect, and when these are discounted there is a significant correlation between local and regional rainfall records. This suggests common large-scale synoptic forcing underlies regional rainfall variability, and the decadal-scale variability in the Adansonia digitata records indicates extremely dry conditions in the 1780 to 1840 CE period.

Mats Widgren, Tim Maggs, Anna Plikk, Jan Risberg, Maria H. Schoeman and Lars-Ove Westerberg

Earlier work on the terraced settlements of the Bokoni area (16th to 19th century, Mpumalanga province, South Africa) focussed on the homesteads, their contents, layout and chronology. This paper suggests a terminology and typology of agrarian structures in Bokoni in order to improve comparative approaches in Africa and beyond. The typology and an excavation of the terracing permit possible preliminary conclusions relevant for the further analysis of the terracing and stone-walling in Bokoni. The terracing developed incrementally, whereby cultivation, stone-clearing and terracing were intermixed processes. This is supported both by the organic content in a section of a terrace and by a phytolith analysis. The phytolith analysis furthermore indicated that maize was cultivated on the terraces, but this should be seen as a pilot study only, and presence of maize in Bokoni must be tested with other archaeobotanical methods.