The Journal of African History



THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF SOUTHERNMOST AFRICA FROM c. 2000 BP TO THE EARLY 1800s: A REVIEW OF RECENT RESEARCH


PETER MITCHELL a1 and GAVIN WHITELAW a2
a1 University of Oxford
a2 Natal Museum and University of KwaZulu-Natal

Article author query
mitchell p   [Google Scholar] 
whitelaw g   [Google Scholar] 
 

Abstract

Southernmost Africa (here meaning South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland) provides an excellent opportunity for investigating the relations between farming, herding and hunting-gathering communities over the past 2,000 years, as well as the development of societies committed to food production and their increasing engagement with the wider world through systems of exchange spanning the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This paper surveys and evaluates the archaeological research relevant to these communities and issues carried out in the region since the early 1990s. Among other themes discussed are the processes responsible for the emergence and transformation of pastoralist societies (principally in the Cape), the ways in which rock art is increasingly being incorporated with other forms of archaeological data to build a more socially informed view of the past, the analytical strength and potential of ethnographically informed understandings of past farming societies and the important contribution that recent research on the development of complex societies in the Shashe-Limpopo Basin can make to comparative studies of state formation.


Key Words: South Africa; Lesotho; Swaziland; archaeology.