Associate Professor Shadreck Chirikure, Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town

Great Zimbabwe was a big focal point for Iron Age research in southern Africa and thus it became the reference point for understanding precolonial states. By the early 1970s, Mapungubwe, Mapela and other places were viewed as outposts of the extensive Great Zimbabwe Empire. When a few radiocarbon dates were combined with cognitive structuralist theories in the 1980s, it was suggested that Mapungubwe pre-dated Great Zimbabwe. Since then, the dominant viewpoint has been that Mapungubwe was the earliest state, followed by Great Zimbabwe, which in turn was followed by Khami. Recent archaeological work at Mapela, Great Zimbabwe, Mapungubwe, Khami and other sites has shown that, rather than having a single state at any one time, southern Africa had multiple communities with state-like structures scattered across the region. This course will provide evidence for this new view.



1.     Early states in southern Africa

2.     The Leopard’s Kopje: Mapela, Mapungubwe, Mtanye and others

3.     Great Zimbabwe

4.     Khami and the southwest

5.     Multiple early states: some conclusions


Recommended reading

Chirikure, S. et al. 2013. New Pathways of Sociopolitical Complexity in Southern Africa.

Chirikure, S. et al. 2014. Zimbabwe Culture before Mapungubwe: New Evidence from Mapela Hill, South-Western Zimbabwe.

Huffman, T.N. 2000. Mapungubwe and the Origins of the Zimbabwe Culture.

Date: 22–26 January  
Time: 3.30 pm
COURSE FEES Full: R510,00  Staff: R255,00  Reduced: R130,00