Technological, Functional and Contextual Aspects of the K2 and Mapungubwe Worked Bone Industries

Annie R. Antonites, Justin Bradfield, Tim Forssman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Mapungubwe (AD 1220–1290) is generally regarded as the first urban centre in southern Africa, functioning as the seat of power for an extensive but short-lived polity. More than 80 years of excavations here, and at its nearby predecessor K2 (c. AD 1000–1220), resulted in a substantial assemblage of material remains from elite and commoner contexts. This assemblage includes a large collection of worked bone objects, such as needles, awls, tubes and objects of personal adornment. Of particular interest are the bone arrowheads and link-shafts, of which a significant number of specimens were found complete and intact. Such quantities of well-preserved worked bone objects are unique in the archaeological record of the region. The worked bone assemblages from these two sites provide a rare opportunity to study multiple components of the production process as well as the use context of bone objects. In this paper, we characterise the K2 and Mapungubwe worked bone industries through various morphological, technological, use-trace and contextual approaches and discuss the significance of these aspects in terms of raw material selection and manufacture and archaeological use context. In particular, this study shows the complexity of these worked bone industries over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-463
Number of pages27
JournalAfrican Archaeological Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Complex societies
  • Craft production
  • Farming communities
  • Limpopo Valley
  • Middle Iron Age
  • Use-trace analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archeology (arts and humanities)
  • Archeology


Dive into the research topics of 'Technological, Functional and Contextual Aspects of the K2 and Mapungubwe Worked Bone Industries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this