13. Ancient Stone Ruins Coming to Life

Ancient Stone Ruins Coming to Life
18 August 2019
By Eben van Tonder

Afar depression, 120 meters below sea level, an arid region near the Eritrean border in Ethiopia
Afar depression, 120 meters below sea level, an arid region near the Eritrean border in Ethiopia




We are looking at the people who occupied the stone ruins of the Magaliesburg.  Our aim is to understand how they processed meat.  We start very broadly the structure of their kraal lay-outs. The reason for this approach is that in order to understand any particular food, we have to understand more about the community than simply their food.  How did they structure their villages?  How did they determine wealth?  What technology did they possess?  Did they keep cattle, sheep, pigs?  Did they hunt game?  Did they grow crops?

The Time Designation

The people who made the biggest impact on the Magaliesburg region were Iron age and late stone age communities.  Stone age and iron age communities existed in different times across the world.  “The Iron Age spans nearly two thousand years, from the Early Iron Age (ad 200–900), via the Middle Iron Age (ad 900–1300) to the Late Iron Age (ad 1300–1820), which ended with colonialism (Huffman 2007; 2012a). The era is associated with the beginning of crop agriculture, metalworking, pottery making, and settled life.”  Two models, introduced in the early 1980s, broadened our understanding of this time period namely the Central Cattle Pattern (CCP) and the Zimbabwe Pattern (ZP). (Fredriksen and Chirikure, 2015)

Different Settlement Patterns

“The Central Cattle Pattern (CCP) model is principally associated with Nguni and Sotho-Tswana speakers, and the settlement pattern represents a ‘cultural package’ restricted to groups of Eastern Bantu speakers sharing certain distinct features (see Huffman 2001; 2012b, 124). A typical organization consists of an arc of houses around a central cattle corral.”  (Fredriksen and Chirikure, 2015)

“The Zimbabwe Pattern (ZP) is seen to have developed from the CCP, and may be represented through the same kind of concept, but with a different result. Paul Lane (2005, 31) notes that the ZP has no historical analogue and that all known examples, therefore, are archaeological. However, Huffman (2011, 38) has recently pointed out that Venda society presents a twenty-first-century version. The main sources of analogy come from sixteenth-century Portuguese documents and elements of recent Shona and Venda ethnography. The ZP has a more restricted spatial and temporal distribution than the CCP. And, unlike the CCP, which is associated with both elite and commoners, the ZP was restricted to elite settlements, while commoners retained a basic CCP settlement layout.”  (Fredriksen and Chirikure, 2015)

“A key difference between the two models is that the cattle enclosures in the ZP have been removed from elite areas and replaced by a court or assembly area. This is seen to reflect an increased emphasis on political decision-making.  Huffman (2011, 37) lists five
components that each Zimbabwe capital needed to function: a palace, a court, a compound for the leader’s wives, a place for commoners, and a place for guards (see also Huffman 2014).”  (Fredriksen and Chirikure, 2015)






Fredriksen, D and Chirikure, S..  2015.  Beyond Static Models: An Evaluation of Present Status and Future Prospects for Iron Age Research in Southern Africa. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Available on CJO 2015 doi:10.1017/ S0959774314001115  (FredriksenChirikureBeyondStaticModels)