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date: 05 December 2023

Resilience and Early States in Southern Africalocked

Resilience and Early States in Southern Africalocked

  • Munyaradzi ManyangaMunyaradzi ManyangaUniversity of Zimbabwe


Several states developed in southern Africa between the 9th and the 18th century ce. Some of these states include Mapela, Great Zimbabwe, Mapungubwe, Toutswe, and Khami. The foundation of these states was agriculture and other local branches of the economy, like mining, local and regional trade, hunting, and crafts production. Because of the agricultural foundation of these states, environmental and climatic variables are always considered important in their development and collapse. Despite repeated episodes of climate change and variability, environmental deterioration, and even political upheaval, these early states of southern Africa demonstrate longevity and spatial growth through time in various regions. The oversimplistic correlation of favorable climatic and environmental conditions with growth of states and adverse climatic conditions and environmental deterioration with their demise has been questioned. Rather, it has been suggested that precolonial sociopolitical systems adapted to environmental and climatic changes. This process created new forms that archaeologists often interpret as denoting collapse. Changes in material culture, new spatial configurations, expansion into new territories, changing livelihood strategies, and new innovations in food production, processing, and storage, among other things, all point to the adaptive strategies that mitigated against adverse conditions. The resilience of the socioecological system allowed societies to absorb changes, adapt, and reorganize. Thus, what has been perceived as collapse is rather a transition to a different way of life.


  • Archaeology

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