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'A chief is like an ash-heap on which is gathered all the refuse' : the faunal remains from the central court midden at Kaditshwene

  • Journal Title: Annals of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History
  • Volume: Volume 1
  • Issue: 
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Pages: 1  - 22
  • Authors:  J.C.A. Boeyens;  I. Plug;
  • ISSN: 22204563
  • Abstract:  Systematic excavations have uncovered a faunal assemblage from the central court (kgotla) midden at Kaditshwene, a large stone-walled complex in the Marico. Kaditshwene served as the capital of the Bahurutshe booMenwe, the dominant Tswana chiefdom in the region, from about 1790 to 1823. It can be inferred from oral and contemporary written accounts that the excavated middenwas formed during the regency of Diutlwileng, who succeeded his brother Sebogodi sometime after mid-1813. The midden mound accumulated mainly as a result of activities that involved the town's senior men, who regularly attended court cases, political meetings, as well as various religious ceremonies and rituals, in the kgotla. It was also here where senior men had their main daily meal served and where they pursued crafts such as hide-working. Bones originating from all these activities were discarded on the adjacent kgotla midden. The total faunal assemblage, which consists of nearly 24 000 specimens from at least 45 taxa, sheds valuable light on the lifeways of Hurutshe notables.The archaeofaunal analysis shows that a core section of Kaditshwene's inhabitants relied on cattle, sheep and goats for most of their animal protein. Mostly younger animals were slaughtered, indicating that high-status males had access to the choicest meat cuts. Cattle remains outnumber those of the sheep/goat group at a ratio of 2.6:1. Observations by John Campbell, who visited the capital in May 1820, confirm that the ruling elite of Kaditshwene possessed large herds of cattle. Only a few bones of domestic dog and chicken were retrieved. A wide range of wild animal species is also represented in the faunal assemblage, including a variety of ungulates and carnivores. Many of the latter were prized for their skins, some of which were the preserve of royalty. The recovery of several ivory fragments and a broken ivory bangle corroborates entries in Campbell's journal that elephant tusks were a highly valued commodity. A substantial number of ostrich eggshell fragments and beads were also unearthed. Shells of the freshwater mussel and the giant land-snail display polished edges, suggesting that they were probably used to smooth clay during the manufacture of pots and the construction of housewalls. Body parts of the lappet-faced vulture and the secretary bird were most certainly used for magical purposes by diviners. Though few imports were retrieved, the presence of a marine cockle shell (Veneridae) suggests that the Hurutshe were involved in some long-distance exchange network that reached the eastern coast of southern Africa.
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