In the far north of South Africa, on the border with Botswana and Zimbabwe, is a remarkable place where baobab trees stand tall and golden rhinos rule the land. This is the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, home of an ancient African civilisation that was almost forgotten by history.
It all began nearly 1000 years when Bantu-speaking tribes living at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers began trading with Arab and Indian merchants who sailed along the east African coast, looking for gold, ivory and animal skins. As trade increased, these Bantu tribes became rich and soon consolidated themselves into an extended trading empire.
By 1200AD, the Mapungubwe civilisation was at its peak. The capital city was based around a flat-topped sandstone hill with sheer sides. On top of this natural temple lived the king (who was seen as sacred) and his select entourage. On the terraces at the foot of the hill, sprawled a number of ‘suburbs’ containing over 5000 citizens.
Then, quite suddenly, it all went bust and the hill was abruptly abandoned. Tribal taboos kept the local people away for nearly 700 years, and it was only in the 1930s that a group of white farmers, spurred on by the rumours of buried treasure, finally re-discovered the hill. To their delight, the adventurers also found several royal graves that contained hundreds of golden ornaments and decorative beads.
The most remarkable pieces recovered were a golden bowl, a golden mace or sceptre and a beautifully detailed gold rhino, all made from thin sheets of gold foil. These ‘crown jewels of South Africa’ are now on display in the Mapungubwe Museum, located on the University of Pretoria campus.
During apartheid, this tale of a sophisticated African civilisation was glossed over for ideological reasons. But those days are behind us and Mapungubwe is now safely ensconced within the borders of a protected area, administered by South African National Parks. Attractive new rest camps have been constructed, game is being reintroduced into the area and archaeological excavations are on-going. All in all, it’s an exciting time to visit Mapungubwe – you will return enchanted.
This comprehensive travel guide recalls the amazing story of Mapungubwe – precursor to the wondrous stone city of Great Zimbabwe. Readers will also find info about the ecology, climate, fauna and flora of the region along with detailed maps, colour photographs, route guides and comprehensive tourist listings.
Praise for the Southbound World Heritage series:
“These are fantastically comprehensive guides… packed full of information and beautiful photographs, and small enough to slip inside a backpack” – Jane Strode, Daily Sun
“Handy travel companions… these guides may be small but they’re literally jam-packed with information… making these guides holiday must-haves for an informed and more enjoyable trip” – Longevity magazine
“These handy books are accessible for everyone from the lay person to geologists and scientists, answering all your questions regarding these sites” – Saturday Dispatch
“…compact pocket guides packed with info, maps and colourful pictures” – 50/50
“They are a celebration of various aspects of South African culture, including our historical inheritance and the land on which we live” – Diane de Beer, Pretoria News
“There’s this marvellous new collection of pocket guides by Southbound, each highlighting a specific World Heritage Site in South Africa… Easy to use and fun to read, the pocket guides are a must for anyone remotely interested in our country’s heritage” – Independent on Saturday
“These books reveal fascinating parts of our country that many of us aren’t properly aware of. They’d make excellent gifts, singly or collectively, and are great primers for planning a holiday” – Bruce Denhill, The Citizen
“All [eight] of South Africa’s World Heritage Sites are covered, each in a manageable pocket guide which provides a remarkable amount of information for the edification of the serious eco-tourist… comprehensive contents… an extensive amount of information” – Carol Knoll, Environmental Management
“…intensely practical… fantastic series to buy” – Jenny Crwys-Williams, Talk Radio 702
“…these are among the best we have – opinionated and full of personality” – Patricia McCracken, Farmer’s Weekly
164 pages, black and white with colour photo inserts, dimensions: 180x100mm