Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site

Located in the Limpopo Province where the borders of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe meet and the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers converge, is the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site, an area which archaeological evidence shows was inhabited between 1220 AD and 1290 AD. The sandstone flat-topped hill, standing about 30 meters high, offers a magnificent view of the surrounding area, and it is here that human bones were discovered, leading to archaeological excavations that have yielded a host of fascinating artifacts of great historic significance.

It was on New Year’s eve in 1932 that a local farmer and his son discovered items on top of the hill which they brought to the attention of Professor Leo Fouché of the University of Pretoria. This set in motion a series of excavations, leading to the discovery of numerous artifacts believed to date between 1000 AD and 1300 AD, including glass beads, pottery, Chinese celadon ware, gold ornaments, crafted ivory, ceramic figurines and refined copper and iron. Archaeological evidence suggests that this community was a highly evolved, class-based social system that traded with countries as far off as China, India and Egypt. While it is not known why the area was abandoned, it has been suggested that climate changes may have been a contributing factor.

A visit to Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site is well worth while. In additional to seeing the ongoing archaeological excavations, visitors can enjoy the magnificent scenery, including a view of Botswana and Zimbabwe, the abundant wildlife, the enormous baobab trees and the wide open spaces that make this part of South Africa so appealing.

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