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Past Climatic Conditions for Bokoni at Buffelskloof, Mpumalanga, Using δ13C Analysis of Prunus africana and Pittosporum viridiflorum Tree Rings

In: Journal of African Archaeology
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  • 1 School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • | 2 School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • | 3 Buffelskloof Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
  • | 4 Stable Isotope Facility, Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
  • | 5 Stable Isotope Facility, Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South AfricaiThemba LABS, Private Bag 11, WITS, 2050, South Africa
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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.

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