The 65 new sites reported in this article were recorded over 14 years and seven field seasons, with the participation of numerous graduate students and many dozen local participants. As a result of this collaborative effort, there is considerable variation in the level of detail between site descriptions. In this section, we highlight eleven sites that have good documentation and are noteworthy for their excavation potential or cultural value. We are not reporting on several other well-known sites in this region, including Kihesakilolo/Ikerege and Tavimienda, as they have already been described in detail elsewhere (Itambu 2013, 2015).
HxJg-125 (Kitwiru Rock Art Site)
The Kitwiru Rock Art site consists of a series of granite boulders on the northern slope of a steep-sided valley. The boulders form several adjoining “rooms” and shelters that contain archaeological materials, including lithics and potsherds. While several artifacts were observed on the surface, the density of finds was very low, and there is evidence of water movement through the shelter. However, the value of Kitwiru is not in its archaeological material but its artwork panel and historical significance. Near the archaeological materials were several images painted on a stone panel, facing south towards the valley and protected from the elements by a rock overhang. Depicted are two silhouettes of what appears to be a lizard, as well as a spiral motif (Fig. 7). There are other unidentifiable stains in association with the art, and it is possible that there are other figures that might be revealed using image manipulation techniques. Several meters from the panel, we discovered a ground stone slab, which may have been used to process pigments or other materials to create the rock art panel.
There is also evidence that the rockshelter has been used recently, and in various ways. For example, a rock-fall trap was set up, presumably to catch small game. We were also informed that the shelter was used in the last several decades by local people to drink pombe (a local home-brewed beer), which was previously prohibited by the colonial government and thus had to be consumed in secret. And finally, the rockshelter is said to have been used as a hiding place by the local people during the 1970s to escape the Ujamaa policy of forced villagization. This refers to the relocation of communities to create centralized villages where services could be better delivered to the people in rural areas. Another rock art site in the same area, Lutona, shows a similar pattern of continuity of use into the present day (Itambu 2013, 2015). Lutona is currently used for iron smelting, and other sites in the area are also used to this day for overnight sleeping accommodations during the rainy seasons (Itambu 2013, p.49).
HxJh-1 (Ulonge Korongo)
HxJh-1 is an erosional gully approximately 140,000 m2, located along the base of a hill. The slope is covered with low-quality white quartzite, none of which bears intentional modification, and appears to be a natural outcrop of quartzite rather than the result of human activity. Further downslope, seasonal water movement has cut into the sediments to create a ravine with red pillars and undulating walls (Fig. 8). It is this gully area that contains cultural materials. According to a local belief, Ulonge Korongo is the remains of a king’s palace, and we were informed that it is normally forbidden to take material from the site. Our local guide led us in a ritual to signal our good intentions, thereby allowing us to collect a small sample of potsherds.
The dominant artifact type at Ulonge Korongo is pottery, which suggests a possible historic or IA component, though iron slag is poorly represented. Lithic finds are extremely limited, and the only notable exception is a single quartzite Levallois flake that is denticulated along one edge. The general paucity of lithic evidence suggests that there are no significant ESA, MSA, or LSA components here. However, the abundance of potsherds, particularly large fragments bearing decoration motifs, is compelling. The sherds tend to cluster along the water run-offs and appear to have been washed into the ravine by seasonal water movement. The absence of other contemporary cultural materials (such as iron slag) seems to suggest that the deposits may not be from a habitation site but perhaps represent an intentional pottery cache. Without additional information, it is impossible to say with certainty whether this is an Iron Age, historical, or contemporary accumulation.
Directly adjacent to Ulonge Korongo, we encountered a modern brick-making operation that was mining clay from an exposed edge of the gully. There was also a cramped area where a combination of water movement and digging had made a chamber in the ravine wall. The brick makers called this space Kukifwa Cave and said it was used as a home during the 1974 Ujamaa policy of forced villagization. However, aside from a large potsherd, we noted no modern or ancient artifactual scatter.
HxJh-3 (Matunguu Korongo 1)
Matunguu Korongo 1 is a moderately sized erosional gully, approximately 125,000 m2, formed at the confluence of several intermingled streams. This whole area contains an interconnected network of smaller gullies, linked through stream beds to other nearby exposures. During the dry season, the floors of these gullies remain vegetated and even swamp-like because they are fed by small streams. Cattle prints in the mud indicate that this permanent water source is known to local livestock and the people who shepherd them. Despite this year-round presence of water, Matunguu Korongo appears less disturbed by fluvial action than many other gullies we surveyed. The site is farther from nearby mountains than other gullies we surveyed (approximately 500 m), which may reduce the velocity of heavy rainfall coming off the slopes. Several homes and agricultural fields are located near the gully, but it appears otherwise free of human disturbance.
This site has some of the highest density of lithic artifacts that IRAP observed in Iringa, outside of the famous Acheulean site of Isimila. The area appears to have been a raw material source, and there are hundreds of cores, primary and secondary flakes with little to no evidence for in situ intensive retouching or shaping. Lithic tools were made exclusively on the locally available white quartzite. Lower quality nodules of quartzite are abundant but seem to have been passed over in favor of more limited, but higher quality, material. Virtually, every piece of superior material is artifactual. ESA and MSA lithics are prevalent, evidenced by diagnostic pieces, including large bifaces, choppers, Levallois flakes/blades, and radial cores. The presence of a small number of decorated potsherds also indicates some later cultural component—Iron Age, historical, or even contemporary. The most notable lithic finds were two small caches of hand axes (n = 9 and n = 3) nestled among the base of several hoodoos (Fig. 9). Each cache was clustered in a 50-cm2 area, and the two groups were only 5–10 m apart from one another, suggesting they may have originally been part of a single collection. The bifaces from the smaller cache are particularly finely shaped in the classic teardrop form, while bifaces from the larger group are more variable and included oblong and ovate shapes, some of which were less refined.
Despite evidence of water erosion and transport, the archaeological potential of Matunguu Korongo is high. Not only is there an incredibly high density of cultural material, but the lag pavement layers we observed may have trapped cultural materials, and protect the underlying deposits. One pavement, in particular, can be traced across much of the profile of the ravine. Through the collection and subsequent refitting of several discrete scatters of lithics, we are confident that many areas have been protected by these lag deposits, leaving many sediments (and the artifacts they contain) relatively undisturbed.
Ilange is an open-air surface scatter, which has been partially exposed by agricultural activity from a bordering sunflower field. Approximately 800 m to the north of the site is the main highway, and 200 m to the south, down a gently sloping valley, is the Little Ruaha River, a year-round source of freshwater. This site was brought to our attention because of its cultural significance as one of the battlefields where Mkwawa fought to consolidate his power as the paramount Chief of the Hehe. While Mkwawa is best known for his resistance against the German colonizing forces at locations such as Lugalo, he also faced internal conflict and resistance to his rule. Oral tradition suggests that at Ilange, Mwambambe Ngondo Kimamula, a subordinate to Mkwawa, fought for control of the Hehe armies. We were also alerted to a significant tree which reportedly marked the medical area for Mkwawa’s injured soldiers. Food and medicines were said to be brought here where the Hehe healer, Mbugi, treated the wounded, and the remains of these supplies can be observed as potsherds around the base of the tree. Oral tradition states that at the conclusion of the battle, Mkwawa beheaded Ngondo Kimamula and several of his generals, and stacked the decapitated skulls in the field.
Local reports suggested the surface at Ilange was still scattered with remains of soldiers from this conflict, and we offered to assist in identifying or documenting the presence of any human material. A section of the site is currently cultivated, and agricultural activity is known to churn the deposits, often exposing underlying archaeological materials. Despite this, we did not note the presence of any human remains or Mkwawa-era material culture on the surface. There were a few fragments of bovid bones on the surface, which looked slightly weathered, and a small (< 3 cm) fragment of a weathered long bone that could not be identified more precisely. Even though there was no material relating to the historic battle observed on the surface, subsurface testing may yet reveal relevant artifacts.
In addition to its historical importance, Ilange also has Iron Age material and possibly LSA and MSA artifacts. A survey of the cultivated field and hill revealed a low to medium density of artifacts over an area of approximately 7000 m2. The surface scatter includes the remains of several iron furnaces, potsherds, and various lithic artifacts. Some of the characteristic Iron Age materials, including ceramics, furnace fragments, and iron slag, were concentrated around the edges of some natural granitic outcrops along the periphery of the Ilange hillside. The physical proximity of the potsherds and similarities in their decoration motifs suggest that they may have been complete vessels that were broken in situ.
The Ilange hillside has small amounts of naturally occurring white quartzite, and it appears that the archaeological lithic material is from this local source. All of the lithic artifacts observed were made from a low-medium quality of white quartzite, and some of these have signs of intensive reduction. The quality of the rocks makes it difficult to identify characteristics diagnostic of a particular lithic technology. However, the overall size of the modified products suggests an LSA or MSA component. In particular, Ilange had several radial cores, which are typical of the MSA, but these are much smaller than expected, with some no more than 5 cm in maximum dimension. This diminutive size is comparable with the microlithic industries of the Later Stone Age, but we are not aware of any LSA industries in Tanzania that rely on a radial strategy of blank production. Although these are surface finds and relative ages cannot be inferred, they suggest that Iringa may have a unique industry of MSA micro radial cores. It is also possible that these cores represent the adaptation and persistence of radial core technology into the LSA. Ilange offers a strong prospect for future work, given the combination of the Stone Age, Iron Age, and historical materials in the area. It is possible that the remains of the historic battle and war camp of Mkwawa lie below the surface. Excavation at Ilange could, therefore, provide a unique perspective on the campaigns of Mkwawa against the German forces, and the internal struggles of the Hehe to become a centralized political authority under Mkwawa.
HxJh-5 (Kihanga Korongo)
Kihanga Korongo is a large (160,000 m2) water-eroded gully with an extremely high density of lithic artifacts. It is adjacent to HxJh-3 (Matunguu Korongo), and the two sites are actually joined by a stream that runs through each gully. Some gullies such as Ulonge Korongo have distinct, narrow channels with steeply sided walls and bright red sediments. However, Kihanga Korongo is a broad and flattened exposure with pale tan-colored sediments. This contrast highlights the different depositional and taphonomic circumstances that form gullies in Iringa.
The gully appears to have been a natural source for white quartzite from the ESA onwards. The lithic scatter here is dominated by this local material, with hundreds of cores, flakes, and bifaces, some of which were roughly shaped on-site. There are also low-quality quartzite nodules on the surface, but these are unmodified because the high-quality materials were more selectively exploited. While the sister site (Matunguu Korongo) has lithics made almost exclusively on white quartzite, Kihanga has a wider variety of lithic materials that include some percentage of metamorphic rocks. IRAP collected samples of these less common materials in 2018 to examine whether they are exotic or of local origin.
The cultural sequence at Kihanga spans at least 300,000 years. Lithics include diagnostic pieces from the ESA (bifaces and choppers) and MSA (Levallois flakes/points/blades and radial cores). Several scatters of small, LSA-like debitage were observed, but no diagnostic LSA pieces were identified. Hence, the LSA occupation is suspected but not confirmed. A small number of potsherds indicate an IA/historical presence, although several households border the gully, and the pottery could be contemporary. Kihanga is the only place thus far where we have observed clear evidence for hammerstones. One section of the ravine revealed a possible cache, with three water-worn rounded quartzite pebbles showing localized battering (Fig. 10). Despite their presumed prevalence in the Stone Age, hammerstones are surprisingly rare, and these are the best examples we have seen in Iringa.
The excavation potential for Kihanga Korongo is uncertain, though we hope that a more thorough exploration of the gully will reveal suitable sections. The sheer abundance of artifacts at Kihanga and their low degree of weathering suggest that there may be intact stratigraphy nearby. As seen in other gullies, artifact concentrations at Kihanga are strongly associated with lag deposits, which would offer some protection to underlying layers. However, the broad and flat nature of this gully leaves few hoodoos or vertical wall sections to examine. IRAP only surveyed approximately 10% of Kihanga’s area, and we are hopeful that further survey will reveal intact areas that are suitable for excavation.
HwJh-3 and 4 (Mafinga Rockshelters 1 and 2)
The Mafinga Rockshelters are located near a mountain chain with multiple granitic outcrops (Fig. 11). The mountain is relatively steep and moderately vegetated with trees. As a result, many of these inselbergs are hidden from view from the ground. The flat area around the mountain is intensively farmed, and herds of livestock can be seen here. There are signs that the mountain is well-traversed, including some footpaths and ax-felled trees.
There is potential for Stone Age material on the mountain. On the lower slopes, low density scatters of white quartzite MSA lithics were observed, including small radial cores and Levallois flakes. This area is steeply sloped, and it appears that the sparse accumulation was deposited by gravity from somewhere higher up the mountain. Closer to the top of the mountain, there is a natural outcropping of low-moderate quality white quartzite, none of which appears artifactual. The source of the MSA lithics was not discovered, but future archaeological survey on the lower- to mid-range of the mountain slope may identify Stone Age sites. The mountain chain is several kilometers long, and satellite images suggest there are many potential overhangs at higher altitudes. However, given the low density of surface scatter, general lack of lithic material, and steep nature of the landform, it may not be worthwhile to explore this area further for the source of the MSA lithics.
Mafinga Rockshelter 1 is a historically significant site, locally known as a place where Mkwawa’s family kept cattle, and occasionally served as a hideout for Hehe soldiers. There are three adjoining “rooms” to this overhang, the largest of which was approximately 4 m wide and 15 m deep and contained what appears to be a barrier roughly constructed with rocks and tree branches. Towards the rear of the shelter, the ground rises to meet the roof, and while the room is too low to walk comfortably, there is still space for people to sit or lie down. There were a few undecorated potsherds and faunal remains (n < 10), and nothing on the surface suggested intensive use in the past. Nevertheless, Mafinga 1 is important because of its connection to Mkwawa and the Hehe Rebellion.
Mafinga Rockshelter 2 is a large granite boulder that was encountered by chance as we descended the mountain. The satellite images indicate that the inselberg is approximately 30 m in diameter. The rockshelter is a product of natural weathering that created a 360° overhang like the brim of a sunhat. There is a small amount of surface scatter, most of which points to a historic or Iron Age occupation, including fragments of decorated pottery, animal bones, and a possible grindstone. Some white quartzite is present, but it does not bear obvious signs of modification and may be a natural accumulation. There is low to moderate potential for excavation at Mafinga Rockshelter 2. It is unlikely that the sediments around the rockshelter have sufficient depth to contain Pleistocene deposits, but Iron Age occupations seem plausible.
HwJg-101 (Kikongoma, Aka “Black Stones”)
Kikongoma, also known as Black Stones (or Mawe Meusi in Swahili), is a cultural site along the Little Ruaha River. The site likely gets its nickname from the large metamorphic boulders that are darker than the rock typically found in the region. Local traditions state that Mkwawa’s mother, Sengimba, died by suicide at this location, although there are varying stories about the reason. Some informants believe she killed herself upon hearing that her son had been captured by the Germans, and others suggest she was fleeing from conflict during the Hehe uprising when Mkwawa seized power. The location of her death is supposedly where large boulders form a natural bridge across the river. Despite the gentle movement of water and low levels during our visit, the channel here is deep and probably fills with fast-moving water during the rainy season. Lingering silt has caked onto the boulders and marks the high water level in the past. Piled conspicuously on a nearby rock were grass, leaves, and branches, in varying states of desiccation. These were said to be offerings left to Mkwawa’s mother.
HwJg-104 (Mlangali Hill)
Mlangali Hill is a freestanding granitic inselberg of impressive stature (Fig. 12), near the town of the same name. It is only 400 m from the base of another hill, but the surrounding area is otherwise flat, making this outcrop stand out in striking contrast, even from several kilometers away. This landform is particularly eye-catching because the granite seems to rise directly out of the ground. The nearest main road is approximately 2 km from Mlangali Hill; however, much of the surrounding land is cultivated, and informal roadways led us to the base of the inselberg. The surface area of the hill is approximately 37,000 m2, much of which is sheer granite with no potential for sediment accumulation. At least two of its approaches have steep but climbable slopes that are moderately to heavily vegetated with trees and shrubs. The top of Mlangali Hill provides a commanding view of the surrounding terrain and has soil development that supports tall grasses, bushes, and even some large trees. Rather than one single flattened area, the hill supports several terraced levels, only a few of which have been explored by IRAP.
Survey around the base of the inselberg revealed a low density scatter of furnace fragments, iron slag, potsherds, and quartzite lithics of an indeterminate industry. No artifact scatter was observed during the short but intense climbs up and down the slope, but the upper reaches of the hill revealed areas with moderate amounts of cultural material. Potsherds, iron slag, burnt bone, and a rusted (modern) bowl were located on the top of the hill, suggesting contemporary and IA occupation. A small number of lithics (n < 10) were also observed, which must represent intentional human transport as there is no naturally available raw material source on Mlangali Hill. The lithic assemblage has no diagnostic types, but the presence of a secondary chert flake and two possible Levallois flakes suggests that an MSA component may be located in the area.
There are two types of natural features on Mlangali Hill, which have some potential for excavation: clefts and overhangs. A majority of the large, intact pieces of pottery that we observed were collected in clefts, which formed through the natural weathering of boulders. It is unclear whether the pots were placed in the crevasses, or fell into it from above, but all these clefts contained large fragments of ceramics almost without exception. There is also at least one overhang, with two adjacent rooms, both of which are suitable shelter areas. The first room is approximately 2 m × 2 m and featured a rusted metal bowl and some surface charcoal. No prehistoric artifacts were observed on the surface, but shrubs growing just in front of the entrance suggest the possibility of deep accumulation of archaeological deposits. The second room is about 1.5 m × 3 m and contains several potsherds and two quartzite lithics. Further survey will likely yield additional places on Mlangali Hill with archaeological potential.
HwJg-105 (Mgera Furnace Site)
The Mgera Furnace Site is an open-air surface scatter, located just a few hundred meters from Mlangali Hill. It is a flat area of red, iron-rich sediment exposed by water run-off from a mountain that borders the site to the east. Most of the surface shows evidence of low-intensity sheet flow, although some deeply incised channels are several meters deep as well. Due to the extensive water movement, Mgera is a palimpsest with IA materials lying directly next to exposed Stone Age lithics. There is also evidence for intensive iron processing. We documented at least half a dozen dense accumulations of iron, iron slag, and furnace fragments, which are likely in situ furnaces, one of which is bisected by the road.
The entire site slopes gently downhill to the west and is more heavily vegetated near the base of the mountain to the east. This mountain features numerous large boulders on its sides that could have served as shelters. We also observed a decline in the proportion of IA materials as we traversed east, and towards the base of the mountain, we found almost exclusively Stone Age lithics. It is unclear whether this pattern represents differences in past land use or taphonomic processes. The excavation potential of the Mgera Furnace Site is uncertain. The density of surface finds and the wide-ranging periods are encouraging, but significant water disturbance is a cause for concern. The IA component of the site appears relatively intact, disturbed mostly by the modern road activity. Shovel testing could reveal whether intact layers below the surface would be worthy of excavation. The deep natural channels could also provide a means of assessing the sedimentology of the site.
HxJg-107 (Mangalali Hill)
Mangalali Hill is a low mound-like hill, surrounded by cultivated land, located less than 20 m from the main road. The whole site is less than 10,000 m2, encompassing the hill and portions of the adjacent sunflower fields, although the full extent has not been explored. The hill has gently sloped sides, with large, flattened areas higher up that would be suitable for occupation, but there are minimal surface finds there. The vast majority of surface finds are located around the periphery of the hill in the agricultural fields, which are highly disturbed by cultivation. Most of the artifacts suggest Iron Age or recent occupations, however there is also some evidence of Stone Age deposits. Even though the site is relatively small, we observed at least six distinct decoration motifs on potsherds on and around the base of the hill. Moving away from the hill, onto a well-worn footpath through the farm fields, are some lithics on good quality material including black chert, orange quartzite, and the typical white quartzite. Large flakes and Levallois technology suggest that MSA deposits may have been churned up by the agricultural activity. Up the slope, two prominent clefts were found to contain pottery sherds, much like the sherds found in the clefts at HwJg-104 (Mlangali Hill). There are also several very small overhangs at Mangalali Hill (none larger than 2 m × 2 m), with surface scatters containing animal bones, lithics, slag, and potsherds. Abundant artifacts litter the surface of the sunflower fields around the base of the hill, indicating that subsurface components once existed, and deeper levels may have intact IA/historical material deposits, and possibly Pleistocene-age deposits. In addition, the small overhangs have some sediment accumulations that could help clarify the stratigraphic sequence of the ceramic decoration motifs in the region.