Consumption, function and ritual: 19th century faunal remains from Ha-Tshirundu, Limpopo Valley

  • Author: Annie R. Antonites & Nelius Kruger
  • Topic: Younger than 500 BP,Heritage studies,Zooarchaeology
  • Country: South Africa
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

This paper investigates the dual economic and ideological role of animals in 19th century South Africa. This period is marked by colonial and local interaction in the interior where situations of contact and conflict play out on continually shifting frontiers. During this time, a series of wellfortified, stone walled settlements appear over a large surface area in the Ha- Tshirundu Mountain Range, in far north-eastern South Africa. In 2008 and 2009, two neighbouring Ha-Tshirundu settlements were excavated. Although the sites are more or less contemporaneous, local traditions and oral histories attribute them to two unrelated petty-chieftaincies. Similarly, differing functions and meanings associated with the sites are richly exemplified by oral narratives, with ritual as a recurring theme. Drawing specifically on diverse faunal samples from the sites, this paper moves beyond species comparison to define site function and meaning. We critically evaluate a more inclusive approach that incorporates animal selection, processing and disposal patterns together with ethnohistorical data about the ideological role of animals. In so doing, we question the criteria typically used to draw distinctions between sacred and secular animal use and consider a more interrelated relationship.

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