Archaeology Field School

Archaeology Field School in South Africa
West Virginia Wesleyan College, And University of the Witwatersrand are proud to announce a joint international archaeological project

The Project:

The Mpumalange Archaeology Project is part of a larger movement to explore and understand the complexity of African culture and history prior to European arrival.  The stonewalled ruins in Mpumalanga Province in South Africa are the remains of the complex dynamics of the area’s pre-colonial past. Some of these settlements, such as the Ndzundza and Pedi capitals, continue to resonate in the present and were used as symbols of pre-colonial independence during the twentieth century. Many more sites have become largely forgotten. The Mpumalanga Archaeology Project will revisits a group of these ‘lost sites’ and attempt to link them with a fragmented history of Bokoni.

The Site: Bokoni

We will be excavating at the stonewalled sites of Bokoni in Mpumalanga Province in South Africa. These stonewalled ruins comprise the most detailed built footprint of any pre-colonial society in southern Africa. However, many of these stonewalled sites have become disconnected from the history, memory, and traditions of the local population.  The evidence of pre-colonial intensive agriculture in this region forms part of a wider pattern of “islands” of intensive agriculture in Africa, which are in stark contrast to many established ideas of pre-colonial African agriculture as backward and based mainly on extensive and shifting cultivation.

The case of Bokoni potentially offers an important opportunity to uncover evidence of a locally developed farming system within South Africa, knowledge of which has been lost or made invisible during the late 19th and the 20th centuries. The goals of the project and the excavation are to:

  • Establish the character of the agricultural system of Bokoni in the early 19th century.
  • Explore the political and economic context leading up to this intensification.
  • Contribute to the wider debate on the factors behind agricultural intensification and investments in soil and water conservation in Africa’s past and present agricultural landscapes.

Course Description:

This course will provide a hands on learning experience for students by allowing them to participate in the excavation of an Iron Age site in South Africa.  After arrival, students will attend a day of lectures on the archaeology of southern Africa and become acquitted with the types of artifacts we will find before beginning two and ½ weeks of excavation.   Students will learn archaeological excavation techniques, identification of artefacts, site mapping, plan and profile drawing, primary artefact conservation, cataloguing methods, artefact analysis, and stone tool replication. 

Dates: June 15 to July 7 2012

COST: To attend the course for 3hr credit from West Virginia Wesleyan College is $3300 per person.  This includes tuition, accommodation, all meals, transportation to and from site, and all excursion fees.  Airfare to South Africa is not covered. 

The Climate

Mpumalanga Province in South Africa is located on the eastern portion of the country, bordering Swaziland.  It is the traditional home of Nguni speaking people and contains many different ethnic groups. The Drakensburg Escarpment divides the Province into two major ecological zones, the Highveld grasslands, west of the Escarpment and the sub-tropical Lowveld to the east.  Excursions are planned to visit the area surrounding Bokoni.

Discover the Past,
Discover South Africa

Archaeology Field School
June 15-July 7th, 2012
Lead by Dr. Amelia Clark

Deadline for applications is May 1, 2012.
Click for printable flyer.