Title and abstract of Inaugural Address
Ancient cities and social formation: the rise and development of the Mapungubwe civilisation, AD 900–1300.
The 13th-century African civilisation based on and around Mapungubwe Hill in the middle Limpopo valley originated due to a culmination of social, political and economic transformation among farming and trading societies that populated the area from the middle of the 9th century onwards.
The archaeological sites of Schroda and Bambandyanalo are considered central to this development. However, this is only part of the story. The entire middle Limpopo valley and regions stretching further west to the Kalahari margins saw increased scale, sophistication and organisation in human society during this time, contributing significantly towards the emergence of the earliest known state-level societies in Southern Africa.
On the basis of available and new archaeological evidence, this part of Southern Africa may have witnessed several chiefdoms competing with each other before the inception of a dominant political force based at Mapungubwe Hill. These societies expanded territory, built substantial structures, amassed considerable resources, including cattle, and networked extensively with each other and with regions beyond their own.
This lecture presents some of the evidence and argues that the understanding of early forms of social complexity, including urbanisation, may reorient our scholarly perspective on the past in relation to current and future needs.
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