Shashe-Limpopo Basins Research Symposium, 26-30 Sept. 2007
Hosted by the University of Pretoria’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, the Shashe-Limpopo research symposium brought together archaeologists (and some historians) from three different countries – South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe – to share their recent archaeological and historical research in the Shashe and Limpopo river basin areas.
A second (but no less important) aim was to create stronger links between researchers and institutions in the three countries, in order to promote cross-border and inter-institutional research projects. Papers presented during the symposium covered topics ranging from rock art, hunter-gatherer and farmer archaeology, complex societies such as K2 and Mapungubwe, interaction, historical archaeology, working with communities, past climate, cattle herding, and indigenous glass bead-making in the 10 & 11th centuries in Mozambique. Papers on Mapungubwe National Park, rainmaking and rain-control turned out to be of special relevance to our 3-day post-symposium tour, which took us to the Shashe-Limpopo confluence area in South Africa’s Limpopo Province.
As we left Pretoria, heading for the site museum of Schoemansdal in the Soutpansberg, it began to rain. The rain continued as we drove further north: a third of the Shashe-Limpopo region’s total annual rainfall (i.e. about 100mm of rain) fell over just two days during our three day trip. A proposed day trip to see various sites in Botswana had to be cancelled due to flooding of both nearby South Africa/Botswana border posts and parts of south-eastern Botswana. In place of visiting the Botswana sites, we visited a variety of South African sites, including (appropriately it seems) two rain control sites and two hunter-gatherer rock art sites.
On the final day of the trip, we visited Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site to see the sites of K2 and Mapungubwe. We also had the rare opportunity of seeing water flowing in the Limpopo river from the Shashe-Limpopo confluence viewpoint.
For more information on K2, Mapungubwe and the development of complex states in southern Africa, visit the Natal Museum's 'Towns and Trade' display.