African Archaeological Review

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 71–91 | Cite as

Social Complexity in Southern Africa

  • Thomas N. Huffman
Original Article


Comprehensive evidence has shown that Mapungubwe was the centre of the first state in southern Africa. Recently, some archaeologists have argued that the distribution of artefacts, stone walling, and hilltop locations suggests multiple and earlier centres. A close examination of these data, however, does not support the claims. Counter evidence involving ceramics, rainmaking vs. residence, radiocarbon dates, and field data continues to support the temporal primacy of Mapungubwe and the Shashe-Limpopo Valley.


Bayesian modelling Great Zimbabwe Mapungubwe Khami Southern Africa Zimbabwe culture 


Des renseignements détaillés indiquent que Mapungubwe a été le centre du premier état en Afrique australe. Récemment, des archéologues ont fait valoir que la distribution d’artefacts, de sites de murailles de pierre et de sites localisés sur des collines suggère l’existence de centres plus nombreux et plus anciens. Cependant, une étude approfondie de ces données ne soutient pas ces interprétations. Des preuves contraires comprenant des poteries, une distinction entre les activités de faiseurs de pluie et celles associées à l’habitation, des dates radiocarbones et des données du terrain continuent à soutenir la primauté temporelle de Mapungubwe et de la vallée du Shashe-Limpopo.



I thank David Lewis-Williams, Gavin Whitelaw and Stephan Woodborne for comments on the manuscript. Brett Bousman produced the Bayesian models and Stephan Woodborne helped with Table 3. Wendy Voorvelt prepared the illustrations. Over the years, financial and other support has come from Archaeological Resources Management, De Beers Educational Trust, South African Heritage Resource Agency, South African National Research Foundation, South African National Parks, and the University of the Witwatersrand. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of any sponsors or commentators.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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