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Archaeology of the Past Two Thousand Years in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa  

Gavin Whitelaw and Aron D. Mazel

Hunter-gatherers were the sole occupants of the southern African landscape for many thousands of years. Khoe-speaking pastoralists and then Bantu-speaking farmers entered the subcontinent around two thousand years ago. They introduced different lifeways, belief systems, and technologies. Archaeological evidence from KwaZulu-Natal reveals interaction between farmers and hunter-gatherers in this region from the time of first contact to the 1800s ad. There may also have been an ephemeral pastoralist presence in western KwaZulu-Natal around two thousand years ago. During the 1st millennium ad in the Thukela basin, hunter-gatherers appear to have focused their lives on the wooded central basin that Early Iron Age farmers favored for settlement. Interaction between the two groups seems to have centered on men and been built around hunting. The Blackburn ceramic facies at the beginning of the 2nd millennium marks the first settlement of Nguni-speaking farmers in KwaZulu-Natal. The material cultural signature of Early Iron Age farmers disappeared and relations between hunter-gatherers and farmers shifted as some Blackburn farmers took hunter-gatherer women into homestead life as wives. A renewed hunter-gatherer focus on rock shelters in the Drakensberg coincided with the settling of upland grasslands by farmers in the 14th century. From the 16th century, the region slowly integrated into global networks and then experienced colonization in the 19th century. These processes had implications for both farmers and hunter-gatherers. They contributed to the emergence of large polities in the northeast of the region and, ultimately, the elimination of hunter-gatherer lifeways.