Title: Forgotten World

Subtitle: The Stone Walled Settlements of the
Mpumalanga Escarpment
Author: Peter Delius, Tim Maggs and Alex Schoeman


ISBN:              9781868147748 

Size:               240 x 200mm

Extent:           180 pages    

Format:          Soft Cover

SA Rel:           November 2014

RRP:               R 250.00



The Mpumalanga Escarpment, stretching from Ohrigstad in the north via Lydenburg and Machadodorp to Carolina in the south, saw massive changes in precolonial times. Still visible today is a vast expanse of man-made stone walling which connects over 10 000 square kilometres of land into a complex web of circular homesteads, towns, terraced fields and linking roads, stretching for 150 kilometres in an almost continuous belt. Oral traditions recorded in the early twentieth century named the area Bokoni – the country of the Koni people. Very few people know much about these settlements, how and when they were created, and why today they are deserted and largely ignored. A long tradition of archaeological work which might provide some of the answers remains cloistered in universities. The ensuing knowledge vacuum has been filled by a wide variety of exotic explanations – invoking ancient settlers from India or even visitors from outer space – that share a common assumption that Africans were too primitive to have created such elaborate and complex stone structures. In Forgotten World two leading archaeologists and a distinguished historian provide a rich account which defies the usual stereotypes about backward African farming methods.

They show that these settlements were at their peak in the period between 1500 and 1820, that they housed a substantial population, organised vast amounts of labour for infrastructural development, and displayed extraordinary levels of agricultural innovation and productivity. The inhabitants were connected to a trading system which linked them to the coast of Mozambique and to the wider world of Indian Ocean Trade beyond. They straddled trade routes, especially in metal, that connected the mineral-rich northern reaches of South Africa to more southerly areas. Most intriguingly, oral traditions allow the authors to reconstruct the epic political and economic struggles that ultimately brought about the downfall and abandonment of the Bokoni settlements.

About the Author:

Peter Delius is Professor of History at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He has published a number of books, including A Lion Amongst the Cattle and Mpumalanga: An Illustrated History. Tim Maggs headed the Archaeology Department at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum from its inception in 1972. Publications include Iron Age Communities of the Southern Highveld. Alex Schoeman is a senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She has published numerous peer reviewed papers in scientific journals.


Published By: Wits University Press



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