Precolonial Agricultural Terracing in Bokoni, South Africa: Typology and an Exploratory Excavation

In: Journal of African Archaeology
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  • 1 Department of Human Geography, Stockholm
  • | 2 Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town
  • | 3 Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University
  • | 4 Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University
  • | 5 School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand
  • | 6 Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University
  • | 7 Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University
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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.

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