If You drive through Mpumalanga with an eye on the landscape flashing by, you may see, near the sides of the road and further away on the hills above and in the valleys below, fragments of building in stone as well as sections of stone-walling breaking the grass cover. Endless stone circles, set in bewildering mazes and linked by long stone passages, cover the landscape stretching from Ohrigstad to Carolina, connecting over 10 000 square kilometres of the escarpment into a complex web of stone-walled homesteads, terraced fields and linking roads.
Oral traditions recorded in the early twentieth century named the area Bokoni - the country of the Koni people. Few South Africans or visitors to the country know much about these settlements, 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 and the knowledge vacuum has been filled by a 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 stone structures.
Forgotten World defies the usual stereotypes about backward African farming methods and shows that these settlements were at their peak between 1500 and 1820, that they housed a substantial population, organised vast amounts of labour for infrastructural lopment, and displayed extraordinary levels of agricultural innovation and uctivity. The Koni were part of a trading system linked to the coast of Mozambique and the wider world of Indian Ocean trade beyond.
Forgotten WorldForgotten World tells the story of Bokoni through rigorous historical and archaeological research, and lavishly illustrates it with stunning photographic images.
Peter Delius is professor of history at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He has been researching the history of the regions encompassing Mpumalanga and Limpopo for forty years and has published numerous books and articles including The Land Belongs to Us and A Lion Amongst the Cattle. His most recent books are Mpumalanga: History and Heritage and Mpumalanga An Illustrated History, both with Michelle Hay, and A Long Way Home: Migrant Worker Worlds 1800-2014 co-edited with Laura Phillips and Fiona Rankin-Smith.
Tim Maggs did pioneering research, in the 1960s, on the precolonial black farming communities of the Free State. He then moved to KwaZulu-Natal as the first qualified archaeologist to be based in that province. Retired to the Western Cape from 1994, he was awarded an honorary professorship by the University of Cape Town. He has continued to cooperate in research projects on the Later Stone Age and early farming communities in the Western Cape, North West and especially Mpumalanga.
Alex Schoeman is a senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Her PhD explored aspects of the Mapungubwe state. She co-initiated the interdisciplinary Five Hundred Year Initiative, which uses archaeological, oral and documentary materials to develop a more subtle and complex understanding of the history of the last 500 years across southern Africa. Her current research focuses on the Bokoni terraced and stone-walled settlements in Mpumalanga.
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