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2nd Year UP Student’s Mock Excavation

Two weeks ago the second year archaeology students at the University of Pretoria had a mock excavation practical. They had to excavate, document their finds, draw a site plan and a stratigraphy sequence:

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Departmental Seminar: Wednesday 19th August 2015 @ 10h30



Wednesday 19 August 2015 @10:30-12:00
Humanities Building, Room 8-18

Dr Ancila Nhamo
University of Zimbabwe

Ancila Nhamo is a lecturer of Archaeology at the History Department of the University of Zimbabwe. She has a PhD from the University of Zimbabwe and a Masters from the University of Bergen in Norway. Her research interests include the interpretation of rock art and its management. Dr Nhamo’s most recent research projects, which formed part of her PhD, focused on regionalism in the rock art of Zimbabwe. Dr Nhamo is the author of Immortalizing the Past: Reproductions of Zimbabwean Rock Art by Lionel Cripps (2007), Out of the labyrinth: the significance of kudu images in the rock art of Zimunya (2007) and has published a number of journal articles and book chapters on rock art of Zimbabwe.

Cultural diversity among prehistoric hunter-gatherers: A case study of rock art from Northern Nyanga, Zimbabwe


Contemporary hunter-gatherer groups are known to live in small bands that sometimes congregated into band clusters. On a large scale, they can be divided into a number of language groups which are mutually intelligible. However, identification of such smaller groupings in the archaeological record has rarely been attempted. This presentation looks at ways in which motif variation in the rock art of southern Africa can be used in identifying smaller groupings among prehistoric hunter-gatherers. Distinct and circumscribed motifs observed within the rock art from Northern Nyanga are used to chart a way in this endeavour.

3D Imaging in a South African context – an AESOP workshop

All information and website

“South Africa is a country rich in heritage and the European Union recognises the importance of joining hands with a number of universities in South Africa to not only preserve its heritage, but also to promote it through state of the art technology and opportunity.

In collaboration with the EU’s AESOP and AESOP Plus, the University of Pretoria is hosting a cutting-edge workshop that will expose attendees to the latest 3D technologies in a South African context. This workshop will also offer exciting excursions to heritage sites such as the Cradle of Humankind, as well as the Sterkfontein Caves and Necsa. Register now to be sure not to miss out on this first-of-its-kind opportunity. Deadline: 28 August 2015 Registration for Attendees

A large range of innovative technologies and methods are increasingly used for heritage purposes (particularly in archaeology) as well as for research in various sciences, including anatomy. For example, these innovations are well-suited to investigate the inner structure of the human body (through micro-computed tomography) or to produce high-quality 3D reconstructions of archaeological sites and land surface (through laser scanning, photogrammetry and drone surveys). Other techniques for registering outer structure are presented as well. This AESOP workshop is designed to expose the students to cutting-edge 3D technologies in a South African context. The diversity of possibilities for registration of structure show-cased in this workshop are envisaged to create the incentive for new training and career development opportunities.”


ArchSoc Lecture & the Hanisch Prize

The annual Pretoria ArchSoc lecture in conjunction with UPAS was a huge success! “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter” Middle Earth’s Mapungubwe Gold Collection by Sian Tiley-Nel was fascinating and sparked a lot of questions afterwards.

The Hanisch Prize for Excellence in Postgraduate Studies in Archaeology was also awarded to two students for the year 2014:


Mahlatse Mapheto – Undergraduate


Annemarie Boot – Post-graduate


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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Socializing Indigenous African Metallurgical Knowledge

Socializing Indigenous African Metallurgical Knowledge: an experimental iron smelting workshop at the University of Pretoria
Ezekia Mtetwa


Saturday the 20th of June 2015 saw some of the staff members and students from the University of Pretoria and colleagues from UNISA, Ditsong Museum and the South African Archaeological Society joining me to re-enact aspects of indigenous African iron metallurgy at the UP Sport fields. I remain humbled and honoured for the opportunity to conduct that one-day experimental iron smelting workshop. The workshop, which borrowed immensely from my on-going PhD project on the Iron Industry of Ancient Great Zimbabwe, was entirely a brainchild of Drs Ceri Ashley and Tim Forssman of UP. They suggested it as part of my teaching visit at the University of Pretoria under the Palme-Linnaeus Exchange Program with Uppsala University in Sweden where I have a doctoral position.


By encouraging the active participation of male and female archaeologists from different academic specialities, the student community and other technology enthusiasts, a hyper and overwhelming atmosphere for socialising and communicating ancient metallurgical knowledge was effectively set-up. Killick and Fenn (2012:569) rightly note that there are fewer archaeometallurgists in universities around the world today than in the past. With this observation as a lodestar, the workshop took upon itself the humble but challenging task of bridging the ever-widening gap between consumers of modern and/or western science and technology and the ancient human experience of metal provisioning in Africa. Proceeding along the operational chain and division of labour concepts, participants were made to perform various activities and gestures to constructively create their own knowledge and experience of indigenous African metallurgy.


After a lecture on various aspects of iron smelting and archaeometallurgical field techniques, workshop participants had the pleasure of handling and feeling an assortment of iron technology artefacts from UP’s touch collection. Some of the participants proceeded to making their own tuyeres (clay blow-pipes), feeling the clay as they moulded it around sizeable bundles of thatch-grass. There was so much for experiential learning and investigation: furnace mounting and modification, crushing and roasting of magnetite iron ore, pre-heating of the furnace, fixing of bellows to the furnace, charging the hot furnace with charcoal and ore plus crushed bones and pumping the bellows in turns.


Perhaps the climax in the day, besides the ‘swallowship’ and fellowship over braai and beverages, was when the pumping of bellows triggered singing of some Shona special work-songs accompanied by rhythmic clapping of hands and dance. The technological effect of song and singing became handy when it invigorated and ecstatically translated Professor Innocent Pikirayi (the Head of Department Anthropology and Archaeology at UP) into a human compressor when it was his turn to pump the bellows. Instead of lasting the usual 5 minutes of intense bellowing, he transcended into some trance mode and pumped for not less than 20 minutes.

Suddenly it was sunset, time to disband the camp and jealously abort the experiment four hours after it started. It needed perhaps another four hours of diligent work into the night for the heavily cracked furnace to yield slag and the bloom. The four-hour pregnant furnace was made to abort its foetus, but not before the smelters themselves became pregnant with technological nostalgia and a profound first-hand experience in the concept of ancient African science and technology. The day’s investment in time, thought, physical labour and money was but not in vain. A couple of remarks from two workshop participants are worthy highlighting here. Dr. Ashley, a senior lecturer in the Dept. of Anthropology and Archaeology at UP, suggested that such a workshop be developed into an annual program because of its immense gains in knowledge creation and communication about the past. In concurrence, Mr Wynand van Zyl of Ditsong Museum added that next time, different universities and related institutions should be made to re-enact different iron smelting traditions from the African past in a competition arrangement after which results are compared and contrasted. I totally agree. Meanwhile, plans to analyse the little slag and sintered iron ore using a portable XRF machine are underway at UP.


By way of this guest post, I hereby sincerely thank all workshop participants, the student council and donors of various materials used for the workshop. I am equally indebted to the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at UP through Dr. Ashley, on behalf of its leadership and staff members who channelled all the much needed logistical, moral and material support towards planning my teaching visit and the workshop. I am sincerely thankful to the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History through Dr Anneli Ekblom, my second supervisor and the Palme-Linnaeus coordinator at Uppsala University, Sweden, for the opportunity to be at UP. Special thanks go to Dr. Forssman who worked tirelessly to make the workshop an event beyond imagination.

Guest post written by:
Ezekia Mtetwa
PhD Candidate
Uppsala University
Department of Archaeology and Ancient History