New AMS dates for the Middle Iron Age in the Mapungubwe landscape

  • Thomas N. Huffman School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0974-464X
  • Stephan Woodborne 1.iThemba LABS, Johannesburg, South Africa; 2.School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8573-8626
Keywords: abandonment, droughts, ethnic interaction, Mapungubwe landscape, population dynamics

Abstract

Research in the Limpopo Valley has documented over 500 Middle Iron Age sites (AD 900–1320) relevant to the origins of Mapungubwe – the capital of the first indigenous state in southern Africa. Fifteen new accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates from 11 of these archaeological sites establish the boundaries of the ceramic facies that form the culture-history framework for such diverse topics as land use, ethnic stratification, population dynamics and rainfall fluctuations. Mapungubwe was abandoned at about AD 1320.

Significance:

  • Because Mapungubwe developed relatively recently (circa AD 1200), it can clarify the origins of older states.
  • Environmental factors such as droughts, along with agriculture and trade, played a role in the abandonment of Mapungubwe.
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Published
2021-03-29
Section
Research Letter

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