The story of an African farmscape: Soils, climate change and farming innovations in Bokoni, South Africa
Dr Alex Schoeman
Thu, 16/03/2017 - 20:00
The Auditorium, Roedean School, 35 Princess of Wales Terrace, Parktown, Johannesburg

Charge: Members free   Non-members: R30

Extensive stonewalls, terraces and roads, which roughly covers 24 700 km² in northeastern South Africa, mark the location of the precolonial Bokoni polity that flourished between the 16th and 19th centuries CE. Complex land management strategies, including agricultural terracing, were used to navigate physical conditions and changing environmental contexts. While these decisions were fundamentally social, they would have been constrained and facilitated by physical and environmental factors, such as access to suitable soils, as well as fluctuating temperature and rainfall regimes. This paper reports on recent research on the conditions Bokoni farmers faced and managed, specifically, focusing on the creation of a terraced farming system and the associated selection and management of farmable soils in the context of climate fluctuations.


Dr Alex Schoeman is a senior lecturer in Archaeology and Head of the Archaeology division at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her current research focus is on farming community archaeology and the extensive stonewalled and terraced sites in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces of South Africa. People in this region, previously known as Bokoni, had developed an extensive terrace based agricultural system. The research of the Bokoni Archaeological Team, which she leads, is deepening our insights into the Archaeology of pre-colonial farming in South Africa. Dr Schoeman is a member of the international African Farming Network, which has been established to share knowledge and develop research capacity concerning the archaeology,history, development and current operation of farming systems across Africa