150 Years of Archaeology in SA Discovering the past A lecture to the Western Cape Branch of the South African Archaeological Society in 2009 Hilary John Deacon [email protected] A Lady’s Tale She says – driving Land Rovers, smoking cigars and making discoveries is what attracted her to archaeology. Now an eminent historical archaeologist, Janette Deacon rarely gets a lift in a Land Rover and does not smoke – but she does make discoveries. Her discoveries are “small things forgotten”, like porcelain fragments and clay pipe stems, but they tell an intriguing story of colonial times. That is what archaeology is about. It is her efforts and the efforts of many others that contribute to 150 years of progress in South African archaeology. These slides are some benchmarks of that progress. Benchmark 1: Recognition 1858 – TH Bowker collects stone artefacts from the Fish River area in the Eastern Cape. They are deeply buried and therefore very old. Victorian collectors find stone artefacts in abundance. Curiosity about stone artefacts drives the development of archaeology. of Ancient Artefacts Benchmark 2: Bushman All finds are attributed to the Bushmen/San, who are recognised as the ancient inhabitants of the area. 1870 – Archaeology is recognised as a field of study by Langham Dale. First prehistories are written – search for explanations. Beginnings of interest in San ethnography and linguistics. Implements, 1858-1900 Benchmark 3: Antiquity of Man, c.1905 Louis Peringuey recognises Acheulian artefacts in the vineyards around Stellenbosch as being like those in France that were considered most ancient. Acheulian artefacts Benchmark 4: Early Researchers, c.1900-1923 Many of the early researchers in South Africa were museumbased scientists who undertook excavations, built up collections and published their findings. Some were motivated by the search for fossil human ancestors, like the Neanderthals of Europe. John Hewitt, the Director of Grahamstown’s Albany Museum from 1910-1958, was a zoologist and authority on reptiles and amphibians who did archaeological fieldwork in his vacations. He excavated the type sites of Wilton and Howiesons Poort and other sites near Grahamstown. Benchmark 5: First Professional Archaeologist 1923 – Astley John Hilary Goodwin is appointed to sort out the museum collections. 1929 – Publishes The Stone Age Cultures of SA with Clarence van Riet Lowe. Astley John Hilary Goodwin, 1900-1959 Clarence van Riet Lowe Goodwin’s Three Age Scheme With additions and dates Framework for South African archaeology developed by Goodwin and Van Riet Lowe Benchmark 6: Another Major Contribution by Goodwin 1945 – Goodwin founds the South African Archaeological Society; he starts and becomes editor of the South African Archaeological Bulletin. Goodwin was a journalist at heart – his publications helped the growth of archaeology in South Africa. Benchmark 7: Discovery of Australopithecus 1925 – Raymond Dart describes the first fossil australopithecine prehuman ancestor, the skull of a child from Taung, in the Northern Cape. 1936 – Robert Broom finds more australopithecines at Sterkfontein and Swartkrans, near Johannesburg. These fossils showed that pre-human ancestors evolved in Africa, not in Europe. Raymond Dart, Robert Broom, Abbe Henri Breuil, Clarence van Riet Lowe “Cradle of Humankind” Ron Clark at Sterkfontein Predation hypothesis CK “Bob” Brain at Swartkrans Benchmark 8: True Humans – Modern Ancestors “… not only were people … some 100 000 years ago anatomically modern but they were also behaviorally modern.” – HJ Deacon, 1989 In the 1980s, the “out-of-Africa” hypothesis and the study of the emergence of modern humans created new interest in Stone Age archaeology and, in particular, Goodwin’s Middle Stone Age (MSA). Klasies River Sibudu Sibudu stone artefact with ochre stain from hafting MSA people were modern and cannibals Blombos Benchmark 9: Dating: Science in Archaeology Relative dating means a is older than b. Chronometric dating gives the age in years before the present (BP). 1950s – Radiocarbon chronometric dating revolutionised the understanding of the past 40 000 years. The first radiocarbon-dated site in SA was Matjes River, near Plettenberg Bay. The 11 000-year-old shell midden was much older than expected. Radiocarbon is now routinely used along with other methods, such as Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating, which can be used for samples older than 40 000 years. CSIR Laboratory, Pretoria Dating and Stable Isotopes Cango Caves stalagmite analysed by John Vogel carries a record of temperature changes in the caves over the past 30 000 years. Inside Cango John Vogel Benchmark 10: Rock Art Rock art is to archaeology as birding is to zoology: it popularises and informs on the subject. 1700s and 1800s – Early travellers find and copy rock paintings. More than 15 000 rock art sites are now on record. Rock paintings from the Cederberg Interpreting Rock Art Beyond the narrative explanations Seminal publications: People of the Eland, 1976, Patricia Vinnicombe Believing and Seeing, 1981, David Lewis-Williams Most famous Rock art is religious and shamanistic. Pat Vinnicombe David Lewis-Williams Oldest dated rock painting in southern Africa – 27 500 years old Rock art interpretations have drawn on San ethnography. 1870s – Records from these /Xam San prisoners at the Breakwater in Cape Town were compiled by Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd. 1950s-1990s – Information from contemporary San was compiled by anthropologists. These records also contribute to Later Stone Age studies. Benchmark 11: Who were the Khoekhoen? 1970 – Frank Schweitzer recovers sheep bones and pottery from Die Kelders, showing that Khoekhoe herders lived there 2 000 years ago. 1488-1650s – Historical records by European sailors to the Cape illustrate Khoekhoe people herding sheep and cattle and living in matjes huts. People in Namaqualand still live in matjes huts, farm small stock and speak Nama, a Khoekhoe click language. Benchmark 12: Dispersal of Early Farmers 1952 – The term “Iron Age” is adopted to describe the cultural changes brought to SA by Bantu-speaking peoples who migrated southwards from central and eastern Africa about 2 000 years ago. Iron Age people introduced mining and metal working, livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats, and crops such as sorghum and millet. They also introduced modern social structures. Example: Mapungubwe, now a World Heritage Site, first excavated in the 1930s The distribution of Iron Age sites around Mapungubwe and the Limpopo River The main access to Mapungubwe Hill was via this narrow cleft Mapungubwe period stone walling on the Southern Terrace Glass beads brought to Mapungubwe from India through trade on the eastern coast of Africa were melted down and made into larger beads using baked clay moulds. Fragments of Chinese celadon from the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 AD) were found at Mapungubwe. They are placed here next to a whole celadon wine kettle from a museum. Gold from Mapungubwe Rhino Beads Bowl Iron Age people at Mapungubwe exported gold and ivory and imported glass beads, celadon and cotton in the Indian Ocean trade network Significance of Mapungubwe The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape was the centre of the first kingdom in southern Africa established by the cultural ancestors of the present-day Shona and Venda. It includes more than 400 archaeological sites and the three successive capitals of Schroda, K2 and Mapungubwe, occupied between 900 and 1300 AD. This period laid the foundation for a new type of social organisation in Southern Africa. Achievements after 150 years • Archaeology has branched out into many different areas of special interest. • There is growing public interest in archaeology. • Archaeologists have achieved professional status. • The results of archaeological research have become an integral part of the education system. • Archaeology is a recognised component of national heritage. • Archaeological sites are the focus of tourism initiatives. • There are increased funding and job opportunities (mostly in the applied field of heritage impact assessments conducted ahead of development). Some Aspirations and Needs • Growth of organisations like the South African Archaeology Society. • Strengthening of heritage organisations involved in the protection and curation of archaeological data, sites and collections. • Attraction of nationally representative practitioners to the field. • Planning for future growth.