African Archaeological Review

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 45–59 | Cite as

Iron Age Transformations at Mmadipudi Hill, Botswana: Identifying Spatial Organization Through Electromagnetic Induction Survey

  • Carla E. KlehmEmail author
  • Eileen G. Ernenwein
Original Article


Mmadipudi Hill (CE 550–1200) is an Iron Age site in east-central Botswana approximately 3 km west of Bosutswe, a major Iron Age trade center at the eastern edge of the Kalahari Desert. A 5,000-m2 electromagnetic induction (EMI) survey conducted in 2011 revealed a cattle post arranged in the Central Cattle Pattern, including a central animal kraal with at least three clusters of houses flanking the eastern edge. A test trench confirmed the presence of a Taukome daga structure, possibly a house, 100–150 cm in depth. The EMI survey is one of, if not the first, archaeogeophysical surveys conducted in Botswana. It has proven invaluable as a means to understand the settlement organization and to pinpoint excavations to gain a more detailed understanding of the material culture. The perspective it offered on thorn brush fencing would not have been possible through excavation alone. Although small in scope, the test excavation yielded Taukome and Toutswe artifacts related to the larger sets of issues the Bosutswe region faced as Indian Ocean trade transformed the local political economy. The nature of the relationships between Bosutswe and its surrounding communities likely evolved due to the rise of a prestige goods economy, growing inequality, and environmental degradation around CE 1200. The occupation at Mmadipudi Hill would have immediately preceded these changes. By determining the spatial organization of Mmadipudi Hill, this article begins a crucial first step towards exploring what the local settlement pattern looked like prior to CE 1200 and understanding what the relationships among sites may have been.


Magnetic susceptibility Geophysics Iron Age Southern Africa Central Cattle Pattern Indian Ocean trade 


Mmadipudi Hill (CE 550-1200) est un site datant de l’âge du fer dans le centre-est du Botswana, environ trois kilomètres à l’ouest de Bosutswe, un centre commercial majeur au cours de l’âge du fer, situé à l’extrémité est du désert du Kalahari. Une prospection en utilisant l’induction électromagnétique (EMI) menée en 2011 sur une superficie de 5000 mètres carrés a révélé un poste de bovins disposé dans “le motif bétail central”, y compris un kraal animalerie centrale avec au moins trois groupes de maisons adjacentes à la bordure orientale. Un sondage a confirmé la présence d’une surface de la maison Taukome, 100-150cm en profondeur. La prospection EMI est l’un des, sinon le premier prospection archeo-géophysique menée au Botswana. Il a joué un rôle important en tant que moyen de comprendre la nature l’échelle du paysage du site, et de repérer les fouilles pour élucider une compréhension plus détaillée de la culture matérielle. La perspective qu'il offre sur l’escrime épine aurait pas été possible simplement par excavation. Bien qu'il soit petit, le sondage a révélé des artefacts de la Taukome et Toutswe, liées au questions importantes que la région Bosutswe confronté au moment quand le commerce de l’océan Indien transformé l’économie politique locale. La nature des relations entre Bosutswe et ses voisins a probablement évolué dans le cadre d’une économie basée sur les produits de luxe, les inégalités croissantes, et la dégradation de l’environnement autour CE 1200. L’occupation au Mmadipudi Hill aurait immédiatement précédé ces transformations. En évaluant l’organisation spatiale des Mmadipudi Hill, cet article commence une première étape cruciale vers l’exploration de la configuration de l’installation sur place avant CE 1200 et les relations entre les sites.



The authors would like to acknowledge the Centre for Advanced Spatial Technologies and the US National Endowment for Humanities-funded Digital Institute for Archaeology at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville for the project support. Klehm’s excavations in the Bosutswe region were conducted under a Ministry of Environment, Wildlife, and Tourism research permit from the Republic of Botswana (EWT 8/36/4XV (54)), with the support of a US National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant (#1115148) and the Institute for Digital Archaeology, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (HT-50038-10). The authors would like to thank Jim Denbow for his expertise, Katie Simon for her assistance in the field, Jesse Casana and Jackson Cothren for their contributions in project development, Laure Dussubieux for assistance with the LA-ICPMS analysis, Mothusi Maeletsa and the 2011 Mmadipudi Hill field crew, and Phillip Segadika and the National Museum of Botswana. We are grateful to Samuel Wilson, Maria Franklin, Enrique Rodriguez-Alegría, Edward Henry, and our anonymous reviewers for their comments on versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA

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