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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 10 (2) 2012

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A. Duffey

Mapungubwe: Interpretation of the Gold Content of the Original Gold Burial M1, A620

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 10 (2), 2012, pages 175-187, DOI 10.3213/2191-5784-10223

Abstract
This paper is an attempt to give a credible interpretation of the many gold foil fragments found in a single grave on the summit of Mapungubwe Hill in January 1933. While carefully studying the many fragments of gold foil and the restored rhino, bovine and feline from the Mapungubwe collection at the University of Pretoria, the author noticed that the same type of images, symbols and shapes are found on the rim and base of an old divining bowl at present at Groote Schuur in Cape Town, as well as on more recent BaVenda divining bowls. It was also apparent that the Mapungubwe gold rhino, bovine and feline are all relatively of the same size, that they all have curved bodies and that all have flared feet with small tack holes at their bases, indicating that they were likely once attached to a flat round wooden surface. Along with the remains of a crocodile once in Dr Marc Smalle’s collection in Polokwane, all these figurines came from a single grave on Mapungubwe Hill, referred to as the Original Gold Burial M1, A620. It is argued that all the fragments were once attached to a single object, namely an elaborately carved wooden divining bowl which had disintegrated over time. While the complete collection of gold foil fragments recovered in the 1930s may have allowed a relatively accurate reconstruction of the appearance of the vessel which they originally covered, many of these are missing and therefore this is unfortunately not possible. Enough fragments remain, however, to give a credible partial reconstruction of the bowl based on careful iconographic observation.

Résumé
Cette étude est une tentative d’interprétation crédible des multiples fragments de feuille d’or trouvés dans une seule tombe sur le sommet de Mapungubwe en janvier 1933. Tandis qu’il étudiait avec soin ces fragments de feuilles d’or ainsi que le rhinocéros, le bovin et le félin restaurés de la collection Mapungwube de l’Université de Pretoria, l’auteur s’est rendu compte que les mêmes imageries, symboles et formes se retrouvaient sur le rebord et la base d’un vieux bol divinatoire actuellement conservé à Groot Schurr au Cap, ainsi que sur des bols divinatoires BaVenda plus récents. Il est également visible que le rhinocéros, le bovin et le félin en or de Mapungwube sont tous trois de taille identique, qu’ils ont des corps arrondis et que leurs pattes se terminent de façon évasée avec de petites perforations à la base, ce qui indique qu’il était possible qu’ils fussent à l’origine cloués sur une surface ronde en bois. Tout comme les restes d’un crocodile, jadis dans la collection du Dr Marc Smalle à Polokwane, ces figurines viennent d’une seule et même tombe sur la colline de Mapungwube, répertoriée sous le nom de The Original Gold Burial M1 A620. L’auteur propose d’envisager que tous ces fragments provenaient d’un seul objet, par exemple un bol divinatoire en bois, minutieusement ouvragé, qui se serait malheureusement désagrégé. Comme hélas la majorité des fragments originaux qui auraient recouvert un tel bol manque, il n’est pas possible de reconstruire ce bol à l’image de ce qu’il était à l’origine avec fidélité. Toutefois, il reste assez de fragments disponibles pour en faire une reconstruction partielle crédible, basée sur une observation iconographique minutieuse.



Keywords: BaVenda divining bowls, divination, gold foil fragments, gold rhinoceros, Mapungubwe, Zimbabwe zodiac bowls


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Editors:
Sonja Magnavita, Peter Breunig

Book Review Editor:
Katie Manning, UK

Editorial Advisory Board:
Graham Connah, Australia
Shadreck Chirikure, South Africa
A. Catherine D'Andrea, Canada
Manfred K.H. Eggert, Germany
Elena Garcea, Italy
Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, USA
Timothy Insoll, UK
Tom Huffman, South Africa
Eric Huysecom, Switzerland
David Killick, USA
Savino di Lernia, Italy
Alexandre Livingstone Smith, Belgium
Scott MacEachern, USA
David Mattingly, UK
Susan Keech McIntosh, USA
David W. Phillipson, UK
Gilbert Pwiti, Zimbabwe
Peter Robertshaw, USA
Robert Vernet, France
Lyn Wadley, South Africa

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Gaby Franke, Germany
Annabelle Gallin, France
Richard Byer, Germany

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