Back to the field!

On Saturday the HARPees head back to the field, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Our first excavation season for 2022 begins on Saturday. A group of 12 trek north, trowels in hand, to continue work at Little Muck Shelter. Our goals are to continue excavating in our internal trench (top-centre in the accompanying image) as well as in two areas outside; one of which appears to be a midden. If all goes well, we should complete some ongoing squares inside the shelter, be able to establish whether or not we have a midden in the open, and further explore an area near to the koppie edge that we opened in October but could not complete. We will still be excavating Little Muck in the June-July trip so whatever we do not complete will be backfilled carefully – using sandbags – and covered until our return.

We look forward to sharing our work with you, so please follow us on Instagram or join our WhatsApp community. If you have any ideas about our #badalbumcover team photo, let us know (for reference, here is last year’s).

Our second album named after the most popular choice of snacks on this trip, Salty Cracks, and in no way a reference to anything else.

March planning field trip

For a quick visit, Tim, Ang (PhD), Siphesihle (Masters), Chante (Masters) and Sylvia (Honours) went to the Mapungubwe region to inspect a few sites in early March.

One of the primary aims was to map Siphesihle’s and Chante’s sites. Siphesihle is working at a very interesting site called Mbere. The site includes a shelter occupied by foragers with an outside homestead that includes residential terracing indicating social hierarchy. On top of the hill is a rain-making site excavated by Alex Schoeman. We hope to understand the forager use of the complex and explore social relations occurring across the site and in different spaces. Chante is working further down the ridge in a portion of Leokwe Hill, a site excavated by John Calabrese. We will begin work in an area that contains evidence of craft production because we want to understand the relationship between the decline of these activities at Little Muck Shelter, 1.5km away, and their rise at Leokwe Hill. Our aim is to explore shifts that took place from AD 1000 in the valley as a result of forager-farmer interactions.

Ang climbed a collapsed tree to be able to see some rock art high off the ground in a natural hollow.

For Ang, we visited a number of shelters that will form part of her work. She will be looking at the social landscape, place-making, and the way foragers used their sites over time. She’ll do this by looking at the excavated sites but also by conducting her own excavations at several locations. These are largely in areas we have not yet explored or are occupied sites that are somewhat unusual, such as Boulder Shelter, which is a large boulder that dislodged from the upper terrace and toppled down, forming a protected area where it came to rest. Ang’s work is going to help us better understand the impact farmers had on forager lifeways and how forager decisions influenced settlement habits and landscape patterns.

Sylvia will be looking at landscape change in the area of Little Muck Shelter. The intention with her work is to understand what settlement changes took place in the extended area of the site to help us understand micro-landscape patterns. The area has a number of important sites in proximity to one another and we want to better understand why these sites occurred in a similar area.

It was a very productive field visit and a great way to begin 2022’s fieldwork and kick off our African Origins Platform grant. Now, we wait until the end of the month when we travel back to the area to begin our first excavations of the season.

Follow our research

For those most interested in our published works, have a look through the list here and follow the links. This will be updated as and when new work is published.

Books and book chapters

Forssman, T. 2022. Approaching Identity in Southern Africa over the Last 5000 Years. In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Anthropology.

Forssman, T. 2020. Foragers in the middle Limpopo Valley: trade, place-making, and social complexity. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Peer-reviewed work

Sherwood, N. & Forssman, T. 2023. Identifying use-wear distribution on sewing needles: possible Later Stone Age sewing needle made from a tooth root at Little Muck Shelter, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 53: 104347.

Forssman, T. 2023. The end of the Later Stone Age in the middle Limpopo Valley, central southern Africa. Journal of Palaeolithic Archaeology 6: 26.

Sherwood, N. & Forssman, T. 2023. Macro use-wear identifiers on lithic scrapers and behavioural shifts at Little Muck Shelter, SLCA. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 49: 104034.

Forssman, T., Kuhlase, S., Barnard, C. & Pentz, J. 2023. Foragers during a period of social upheaval at Little Muck Shelter, southern Africa. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa DOI: 10.1080/0067270X.2023.2182572.

Forssman, T., Seiler, T., Rossouw, A. & Ashley, C. 2022. Social landscape of Euphorbia Kop: A K2 farmer settlement with a forager presence in southern Africa. Journal of Field Archaeology DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00934690.2022.2078042

Forssman, T. 2022. Approaching identity in southern Africa over the last 5000 years. In: The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Research in Anthropology. Chicago: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190854584.013.262

Forssman, T. & van Zyl, S. 2022. A preliminary analysis of Little Muck Shelter’s backed stone tool assemblage. South African Archaeological Bulletin 77: 57-66.

Forssman, T. 2021. An archaeological contribution to the Kalahari Debate from the middle Limpopo River Valley, southern Africa. Journal of Archaeological Research (published online June 2021, pending volume and page numbers).

Conferences and seminars

Sherwood, N. & Forssman, T. 2023. The function and use of Little Muck Shelter’s stone scrapers: a replication and use-wear study (poster). The 26th Biennial Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists, Houston, United States of America.

Forssman, T., Pentz, J., Kuhlase, S., Sherwood, N. & Knell, C. 2023. Forager stone technology at Little Muck Shelter from the mid-Holocene until farmer contact. The 26th Biennial Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists, Houston, United States of America.

Barnard, C. 2023. From Little Muck to Leokwe Hill: trade relations and settlement transitions. The 26th Biennial Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists, Houston, United States of America.

Van Heerden, J. 2023. Assessing the effectiveness and impact of an interactive, travelling museum: closing the distance between people and heritage. The 26th Biennial Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists, Houston, United States of America.

Barnard, C. 2023. From Little Muck to Leokwe Hill: trade relations and settlement transitions (poster). Savanna Science Network Meeting, Skukuza

Van Heerden, J. 2023. Closing the distance between people and heritage: presenting an interactive, travelling museum to the public. Savanna Science Network Meeting, Skukuza.

Forssman, T. 2023. Forager technologies and innovations during a period of social upheaval on the middle Limpopo Valley landscape. Savanna Science Network Meeting, Skukuza.

Sherwood, N. & Forssman, T. 2023. Macro-use identifiers on lithic scrapers: scraper use at Little Muck Shelter, Shashe-Limpopo confluence area, and implications for behavioural shifts with farmer contact (poster). Savanna Science Network Meeting, Skukuza.

Sherwood, N. & Forssman, T. 2022. Macro-use identifiers on lithic scrapers: scraper use at Little Muck Shelter, Shashe-Limpopo confluence area, and implications for behavioural shifts with farmer contact. Palaeo-TrACKS Symposium, Johannesburg.

Barnard, C. 2022. Little Muck Shelter: Forager participation in, and contribution to, farmer economies on the southern African landscape. Paper presented at the 16th Pan-African Archaeological Congress, Zanzibar.

Forssman, T. 2022. Foragers during a period of soical upheaval on the middle Limpopo Valley landscape. Paper presented at the 16th Pan-African Archaeological Congress, Zanzibar.

Special interest pieces

Kuhlase, S. 2021. Implications for interaction: forager-farmer interaction in the middle Limpopo Valley. The Digging Stick 38: 4-6.