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Lecture: Inside the Mapungubwe Archives

Inside the Mapungubwe Archives
by Sian Tiley-Nel

The lecture is being presented in partnership with the student body, UPAS – the University of Pretoria Archaeological Society. Sherry will be served from 18:30 to give people a chance to meet.

Date: Thursday 14 August 2014
Time: 19:30
Venue: Sci-Enza Building, University of Pretoria
Charge: ArchSoc and UPAS members: free – Non-members: R30


The Mapungubwe Archives is a buried gem of archaeological knowledge and is a unique, irreplaceable collection, which requires active curation management, care and preservation. The Museum preserves its archives and all records for their intrinsic, research, historical and continuing value, which is a result of the culmination of 81 years of the University of Pretoria’s research and involvement with Mapungubwe.

The archive is extensive, consisting of more than 3000 photographs and negatives, 2000 slides and 60 000 documents, including maps, field reports, manuscripts, publications, drawings, site plans and excavation reports, as well as a useful reference section bearing upon the relevance of Mapungubwe. An overview of the archive will be illustrated, providing a glimpse of the first photographs and new information from recently transcribed tapes of the discovery. Included are rare aerial photographs and some interesting letters of correspondence. The valuable research use of the archive today will also be highlighted to expand one’s appreciation of the University’s commitment to preserving and understanding Mapungubwe.

Sian Tiley-Nel is currently the Chief Curator of the University of Pretoria Museums, and she has curated the Mapungubwe Collection for over 14 years. She majored and graduated cum laude in Archaeology and Applied Anthropology, and later completed her postgraduate degree in Museum Science. In 2011, she graduated with distinction in the class of Honoratus in the Ceramics Conservation Department, and has been inducted as Laureatus Conservator at The South African Institute for Objects Conservation. She also recently completed her Master’s degree in Archaeology on the technology of the K2 and Mapungubwe ceramics. This is her gap year, where she is also serving as project manager on several critical Mapungubwe collection projects.

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Recap: 2013 Mapungubwe / K2 / Schroda visit

Last year the archaeology honours students of UP went on excavation. The weekend during the two week field-school the students took a trip to Mapungubwe, K2 and Schroda. However on the way to Mapungubwe National Park, we ran out of road:

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A kind farmer helped us get there by going through his farm, and we finally arrived:

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Group photograph at Mapungubwe National Park

Touring Mapungubwe National Park:

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On our way to K2:

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Discarded K2 pottery:


The K2 Museum:

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Dr Alexander Antonites teaching us about the history of the K2 excavation:


On our way to Mapungubwe:


Learning about the history of Mapungubwe:

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On our way up Mapungubwe Hill:


Touring Mapungubwe Hill:

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Ashlea ontop of Mapungubwe Hill:


More Mapungubwe:

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Our Schroda visit:

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A lot was learned that weekend and I’m not exaggerating when I say that we all were starstruck by these three archaeological sites! We were truly honored that we could see these sites and it is not an experience we would soon forget!