ASAPA 2015

Toward an interdisciplinary framework for Southern African archaeology: Taking stock of archaeological thoughts, methods and practices

University of Zimbabwe
Harare, Zimbabwe

Conference dates: 1 - 3 July 2015

For more information: and

African heritage challenges: Development and sustainability – call for papers

A two-day international conference

Dates: 15 – 16 May 2015
Location: Alison Richard Building, University of Cambridge
Deadline for abstracts: 1 October 2014

Hosted by the Cambridge Heritage Research Group

Heritage in Africa is increasingly employed as a vehicle for development. The desire to make heritage pay is palpable. Can one really put the onus on Africa’s past to not only be self-sustaining but also to fuel development? How can Africa’s heritage be used to shape and secure a sustainable future for the continent?

This conference aims to explore the ways in which heritage can promote, secure or undermine sustainable development in Africa and, in turn, how this development affects conceptions of heritage in Africa. As the countries of Africa attempt to forge burgeoning economies and societies in the twenty-first century, cultural heritage has a role to play as the nexus where the past and the future meet.

This conference will attempt to explore and challenge the seemingly dichotomous relationships between the past and the future, preservation and development, conservation and innovation in Africa. This conference has two broad aims: a) to understand the relationship, tensions and challenges between heritage, development and sustainability in Africa, and b) to understand how heritage is conceptualised in a diverse African context in light of developing societies, economies and priorities.

We are interested in papers that adopt local, national, regional or Pan-Africanist perspectives to examine the dynamics of heritage and sustainable development, and expand our understandings of the meaning of heritage from within a varied African constituency.

In what ways do heritage, sustainability and development intersect in African nations? Can heritage be conceived as a motor for innovation and change, or is it a barrier to development? What challenges or tensions arise as nations, cities and communities employ cultural heritage for economic, touristic or societal development? What can heritage researchers learn from the African experience? This conference adopts a perspective that explores African conceptions of what heritage is or can be, and therefore we encourage papers that examine and challenge the relationships between tangible/intangible aspects of heritage, natural/cultural heritage, and the moveable/immoveable. We also encourage an interdisciplinary focus with innovative dialogues made between heritage studies, archaeology, anthropology, international development, political science, geography, sociology and museum studies.

Please send abstracts of 300 words to Dr Britt Baillie ( and Leanne Philpot ( by 1 October 2014. This conference is generously funded by CRASSH, the British Institute in East Africa, and the Alborada Fund. For more information visit:

Botswana toughens travel rules

Botswana will no longer accept emergency travel documents for routine visits to the country, the South African home affairs department said on Thursday 11 April 2013.

In a diplomatic note to international governments, Botswana's government said: "The Republic of Botswana wishes to communicate a notice from the immigration department informing that travellers using emergency travel documents will not be admitted to Botswana for routine visits.

"Only those travelling under circumstances of emergency will be admitted under the authority of an emergency travel document."

The home affairs department issues emergency travel certificates to South Africans who have to travel urgently for deaths, sicknesses and other emergencies.

Botswana said emergency travel documents would now strictly be limited to emergency situations, which had to be supported by documentary proof.

Home Affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said South Africans wanting to travel to Botswana should make the necessary arrangements to acquire the appropriate documents. – Sap

ASAPA 2015, email here for more information. 

Call for papers for special issue of Journal of Anthropology

Special issue guest editors: Aron Mazel, Leon Jacobson, Liora Kolska Horwitz 

  1. International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University, United Kingdom; email:  
  2. The School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; email:  
  3. Natural History Collections, Faculty of Life Science, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91904, Israel; email:  

Call for papers:

From the outset of the 21st century, cultural and natural heritage resources worldwide have been under increasing threat from a variety of pressures that operate at a number of levels - globalisation, tourism, population growth, and national and regional development initiatives. The responses to these threats have varied internationally and within nations. 

In some instances, there are strong state interventions, effective legislation and well-funded government agencies generally well supported by the public. In other instances, state and civil intervention may be weak, threatening the safeguarding of cultural and natural heritage resources through, for example, inappropriate or ill-conceived management and tourism strategies, and the lack of will and capacity.
The potential also exists for the emergence of conflict between indigenous populations and the state, concerning the ownership and protection of heritage resources – both natural and cultural. 
The planned special issue of the Journal of Anthropology aims at addressing these issues. We invite investigators to contribute original research articles, case studies and review articles that will stimulate debate and contribute to our understanding of the management and interpretation of cultural and natural heritage resources worldwide.  

Potential topics include but are not limited to:

Globalisation and heritage management
State and civil society in heritage management 
Role of stewardship in management 
Tourism – panacea or threat 
Indigenous heritage management 
Nature vs culture in heritage management 
Who should interpret heritage and how this is done  

The closing date for submitting manuscripts is 28 February 2013. Manuscripts should normally be between 5 000 and 7 000 words including references. Please let one of the guest editors know if you are planning to submit a manuscript.

With queries relating to papers please contact one of the guest editors at the emails listed above. With cultural heritage queries, contact Aron Mazel or Leon Jacobson and, with queries on natural heritage please contact Liora Kolska Horwitz.  

Before submission, authors should carefully read the journal’s Author Guidelines at An electronic copy of completed manuscripts should be submitted through the journal’s manuscript tracking system at

Hindawi, publisher of the Journal of Anthropology, is committed to publishing academic papers via free online access – prospective authors who cannot afford the cover cost of free-online access publication ($400.00) should please contact one of the guest editors. The journal will waive the cost for third worlders and those who cannot afford to pay.

ASAPA response to mining in Mapungubwe

ASAPA, the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists, is currently one of a number of public interest and environmental organisations appealing the awarding of new order mining rights and the approval of the environmental management plan for the Vele colliery, an open cast and underground mine situated seven kilometres from the eastern border of the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site.

We took this step as part of following through on ASAPA's objectives as a professional body, to promote and support legislative, regulatory, and voluntary programmes in all Southern African countries that forbid and discourage all activities that result in the loss of scientific knowledge and unsanctioned damage or loss of archaeological sites, landscapes and artefacts'.

Further, we have undertaken to support excellence in all aspects of archaeology and cultural heritage management. In our opinion, insufficient attention has been paid to the impact that the Vele colliery will have on heritage and environmental resources in the mine's vicinity and we feel that an integrated regional development plan for the Mapungubwe area should be drawn up before this and other mining activities are approved.

The Vele mine is set to operate for a period of around 30 years, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. While Limpopo Coal Company, the owner of the colliery, claims that the impact of the mine on the area will be temporary, it should be stated that the impact on the archaeological sites and places of intangible significance in the path of the mine and related developments will be permanent and irreversible.

The auxiliary effects of the mining, such as the road network, increased traffic, dust and noise are likely to have far-reaching impacts on the broader surroundings, including the degradation of the sense of place and the aesthetic values of the area. This cannot help but impact on the attractiveness of the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape as a tourism destination and have negative consequences for the existing sustainable eco-tourism and heritage tourism sector.

Although best known for the Mapungubwe hilltop site, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in fact encompasses a network of sites with evidence for occupation by near modern humans and humans spanning from 500 000 years back to the nineteenth century. Sites dating back the last 2 000 years mark the interaction between numerous kinds of Southern African peoples (hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, agropastoralists, and voortrekkers) in the Shashe-Limpopo Confluence Area. The area is also rich in biological diversity and forms part of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve.

The entire area north of the Soutpansberg, including Mapungubwe, is likely to be impacted by a number of proposed coal mines and other industrial developments, such as power stations, in the coming decade. The Vele development is significant as it is the first on the South African side of the border. With each subsequent development, the threshold that applicants will have to meet in terms of their impact on sense of place or the environment is likely to be lower.

Mapungubwe is both a place of archaeological and historical significance and a powerful national symbol: the Order of Mapungubwe is one of South Africa's highest honours. The sustainability of the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape as a successful World Heritage Site within an industrial landscape is, however, questionable. To donate R10 to the fight against the Vele colliery and other mining projects in the Mapungubwe area, SMS "MINE" to 31913. The full value of your donation through Vodacom, MTN or Cell C will go directly to the Save Mapungubwe Project. You can also visit to sign the petition or make a donation.


Go to to sign the petition or make a donation.
[Esterhuysen, A. 2010. Undermining heritage. South African Archaeological Bulletin 64: 1-3.]
[Swanepoel, N. and Schoeman, A. 2010. Mapungubwe matters. South African Archaeological Bulletin 65: 1-2]

Click on the links below to download the following documents below:
EMP Appeal.pdf
ASAPA MR appeal.pdf

Housing and industrial developments proposed at Sibudu

The proposed development

The Wewe Driefontein Mixed Use Development, proposed near Sibudu, is planned to provide approximately 3450 housing opportunities ( of mixed typology and income ), 58 ha light and service industrial area, 90 ha of general industrial area, 18ha mixed use area, 37ha of agriculture and smallholdings, 7ha light commercial, 5.7ha general commercial / shopping centre, fuel stations, 2.3ha educational / community facilities, rehabilitation of conservation areas, private open space systems, and associated services and servitudes for bulk electricity, waste water treatment ( subject to confirmation from authorities ), upgrading of external bulk services and infrastructure and internal link services and infrastructure.

Sibudu - Archaeological Background

  • Sibudu has a long Middle Stone Age record dating between 77 000 and 35 000 years ago, a period seldom represented in other SA sites. It is therefore a model for the South African Middle Stone Age cultural sequence.
  • Sibudu is one of only three sites in Africa with early sea-shell beads. These are older than 70 000 years ago. These demonstrate that people at the time had symbolic behaviour because they were expressing group identity.
  • Sibudu has the world's oldest yet discovered bone arrowheads that are 65 000 years old.
  • Sibudu has a rare collection of worked bone tools dating between 70 000 and 62 000 years ago.
  • Organic preservation is exceptionally good. Identified remains of animal bones, seeds and charcoal have enabled KwaZulu-Natal environmental reconstructions from 77 000 years ago. Sibudu has a long record of animal and plant changes, extinct animals and trees not found in the area today.
  • Geoarchaeologists consider the Sibudu sediments remarkable and amongst the best in the world for identifying behavioural moments in time.
  • The AD 1100 Iron Age occupation on top of the Middle Stone Age occupation contained a pit with more than 5000 glass beads as part of several necklaces. This is KwaZulu-Natal's biggest and oldest bead cache.
  • Excavations are ongoing by a team from the University of the Witwatersrand, assisted by international specialists, and the site still has much to offer. Approximately 10% of the site has been excavated, which means that much valuable information remains unexplored.
  • In Europe sites less promising than Sibudu are excavated by generations of archaeologists for more than a 100 years.
  • Sibudu's finds have resulted in many international and national publications in peer-reviewed journals and books. The site has a huge international profile and there are calls from all parts of the world for the site to be saved from the inevitable effects of the development.

Excavation procedure

All the excavators are employed as academics who teach and have administrative duties or else they are PhD students who have their own research projects to work on. This means that we can only excavate for two months of the year.

Consequences of the development

1. If nothing is done to protect the site

Experience elsewhere in South Africa shows that unprotected sites near towns or residential estates are destroyed. Rose Cottage cave, for example, although securely fenced with padlocked gate, was broken into and vandalized beyond repair. 100 000 years of history has been lost. Other sites have the same story to tell as heritage agencies can confirm. Sibudu is far more important than other sites that have been lost to wanton vandalism.


This Google image clearly shows the proximity of Sibudu to the proposed housing development in the present sugarcane fields (to the right of the shelter past a small strip of indigenous forest).

2. If the development does not go ahead

Then the present level of excavation will continue at the site, the area of excavation will be enlarged and generations of South African archaeologists will have the benefit of working at the site.

It is important that sites such as Sibudu ultimately become economically sustainable. When the site has been excavated more, it should be possible to open it for archaeotourism. However, for security reasons and the exorbitant cost of providing security, I do not believe that this will be possible with a neighbouring low-cost housing estate and industrial development.

3. If the development goes ahead with accelerated excavation

If the development was held off for a two year period to allow mitigation at the site, the following would be necessary and will be very expensive:

  • A full-time archaeologist on site for two years with a team of qualified archaeological assistants. These people would have to be salaried because no-one with a full-time job could take off two years for the excavation.
  • Accommodation and travel costs of the team for the two year period. A vehicle and survey equipment would have to be provided - either or hire for two years or purchased.
  • On completion of the accelerated research it will be necessary to securely fence the site and place a guard at the entrance. Failing this, the 80m square floor of the cave must be cemented over to protect the deposit.

Why should Sibudu be saved?

The site still contains a wealth of information about our heritage.
The site can be a place where South Africans learn to excavate and do research on our heritage.

Culture lifts a nation psychologically and intellectually. Whether it be World Cup soccer, fine music, literature, art or heritage of the kind that Sibudu offers, these are things that define a nation and give it pride, ownership. The poor, the homeless and the diseased will always be with us, no matter how much money is funneled into projects to alleviate these miseries. Heritage is only with us if we treasure and protect it. It is within our power to preserve or to destroy sites such as Sibudu which will it be?

Download the Wewe PPP Background Information Document (PDF)

Download the Wewe Driefontein Minutes of Public Meeting (PDF)