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All That is Gold Does Not Glitter by Sian Tiley-Nel

“All That is Gold Does Not Glitter” Middle Earth’s Mapungubwe Gold Collection by Sian Tiley-Nel

Date: Thursday 6 August 2015 Time: 19:00
Venue and meeting place: Sci-Enza Building, University of Pretoria
Charge: ArchSoc and UPAS members: free Non-members: R30


Over the past decade, the archaeological Mapungubwe gold collection has been examined and documented in detail as part of an ongoing curatorial programme at the University of Pretoria (UP). There has also been research progress on dating Mapungubwe Hill’s gold burials (AD 1250-AD 1290), as well as a significant conservation programme, which came to an end in 2009 with the Gold Treasures of Mapungubwe exhibition. Such initiatives ensure that the collection is accessible to a wide audience to revitalize further research and new interpretations.
Sian will provide an illustrative view of the breath-taking gold collection, which comprises the iconic gold foil figurines, including 117 gold bracelets, 139 necklaces, 133 anklets, more than 25,412 gold beads and a multitude of unusual fragmentary gold foil forms. A highlight exclusively for the Archaeological Society will be some rare clips of one-and-only film footage of the early 1933 Mapungubwe excavations revealing fascinating narratives of that time in archaeology.
There are also plans to upgrade the gold gallery, which will be completed by 2016 with funding from the National Lottery and will offer visitors unique opportunities to explore the workmanship of the gold and its three associated burials.The UP Museums are continuously fundraising for the conservation and research of this internationally significant archaeological collection.
Sian is currently the Manager of UP Museums and has been Chief Curator of the Mapungubwe Collection for 15 years at UP. She studied at UP, where she obtained her honours and master’s degree in Archaeology, followed by a post graduate degree in Museum Studies. She has been inducted into the Order of Merit Laureatus Conservator at The South African Institute for Objects Conservation. She is currently pursuing her DPhil. Sian is also author of Mapungubwe Remembered and curated the Lerapo (meaning bone in Sepedi) exhibition of the K2 and Mapungubwe bone tool and ivory collection at the UP Museums.

No photography allowed

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Interview: Kefilwe Rammutloa – Uppsala Exchange Program

Today, we have a short interview with Kefilwe Rammutloa, an Archaeology Masters student at the University of Pretoria. Kefilwe just came back from an exchange program in Sweden and we asked her to tell us about her experience:
I went to Uppsala University, Sweden, for an exchange program with the aim of developing my academic career further. The exchange program was made up of laboratory work, as well as coursework. I took courses in Ethnoarchaeology that aimed at creating critical understanding and the importance of understanding past communities and cultures using modern societies. Another course that I took was GIS for humanities students, this course was essential in teaching me basic GIS applications. The GIS skills I have learned are vital in mapping the trade, exchange and consumption arteries during AD900 to AD1300 in the Greater Mapungubwe Landscape, which my MA disseratation is focusing on.
I also took a course in Historical ecology, this course enhanced my understanding on multidisciplinary projects in understanding how past communities influenced their environments and how the environments they lived in were not passive, rather, reacted to these actions. This course has influenced the focus of my future studies.  The Laboratory practicals were focused on ancient Botanical remains from a site known as Vasatagatan, Uppsala. The practicals aimed at teaching me how to flot soil samples, microscopic analysis and classification of charred botanical remains.
During my stay in Uppsala, I attended  multiple seminars that were focused on archaeological theory, these were very instrumental in shaping my understanding of trade and exchange networks, as well as interaction studies across the globe. I spent a little over eight months learning Awedish, living with absolutely amazing people (19) in a student commune known as Fjillet. This was a magical experience, especially, the unconditional love and warmth I received from my housemates and many close friends I met in the student town. One thing I will never forget is the feeling of excitement as I saw the first fall of snow, and then seeing the sun setting 10:00pm and rising at 3:30am in the morning!
My exchange to Uppsala University has definitely encouraged me even further to do a PhD abroad and bring back the skill to the African continent and grow African archaeology even further.


I would like to encourage all  upcoming post-graduate archaeology student to apply for the next season of  the exchange program as this is a lifetime opportunity that will enrich you, and I would also like to thank the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Pretoria and the  Department of Archaeology at Uppsala University for making this possible! I really appreciate the opportunity you gave me.

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