Coach tour to the stone-walled ruins of the Suikerbosrand
Outing with Professor Karim Sadr
Sun, 23/10/2016 - 09:00
Planetarium, Yale Road (off Empire Road), University of the Witwatersrand, Milner Park, Johannesburg

Charge:     Members: R325         Non-members: R375
Bring:        Closed shoes, protective clothing, water, sunhat, picnic lunch, water/drinks

Booking is essential:  Numbers are limited. Phone Anita Arnott at 011 795 4056 or  

The tour will take us to the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, which is about an hour's drive south of Johannesburg. It contains more than 700 pre-colonial stone-walled ruins, the densest cluster of such structures in southern Gauteng. Professor Sadr's study of these ruins indicated that the original structures were built in a sequence of four phases, from the 16th to the 19th century. In the earliest phase, small homesteads of a predominantly pastoral and egalitarian population were dispersed throughout this hillscape. By phase three, around the turn of the 18th century, populations lived in densely agglomerated settlements near the best arable land on the northern and western edges of the reserve. The Difaqane seems to have led to the collapse of this ranked society a few decades before the Boer trekkers arrived in this landscape. In this tour we will visit some of the key sites from each phase and discuss the possible reasons for the changes in social, political and economic organization as indicated by the changing settlement patterns. We will have an early picnic lunch on the southern edge of the reserve, then we will visit a cluster of sites where we will be able to leave the bus and view the ruins close up. Karim will give us a talk on their archaeological significance.

Karim Sadr is professor in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of Witwatersrand. His main research interest is the question of how and why hunter-gatherers became food producers, namely farmers and/or herders. Lately he has been investigating the formation of new societies in the Highveld during the mid-second millennium AD. The people concerned built the numerous settlements with stone-walled structures whose ruins are to be found in the region. He is wondering what role Khoisan hunters and herders may have played in this case of ethno-genesis.