Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Mountain living: The Holocene people of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, South Africa

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Aron Mazel



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg mountains in the west of KwaZulu-Natal have been home to people for over 25ka years. The primary occupation has, however, been within the last 3ka. Settled primarily by hunter-gatherers, there appears to have been a possible ephemeral pastoralist presence around 2ka and an increasing agriculturist presence during the last 1ka. This paper outlines these occupations, focusing primarily on the northern uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, where most archaeological research has taken place. The emphasis is on the rock shelter excavations at Diamond 1, Driel Shelter, Clarke’s Shelter, Collingham Shelter, Good Hope Shelter 1 and Mhlwazini Cave, complemented by reference to open-air and rock shelter surface scatters and rock paintings. Data about the subsistence and material cultural of all these occupants is synthesised to show that the people of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, but primarily the hunters-gatherers, had a varied diet complemented by rich material cultural assemblages. The Discussion considers, (i), the notion of hunter-gatherer seasonality concluding that the mountains could have been occupied on an all-year basis and, (ii), the possible presence of pastoralists in and adjacent the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg around 2ka years ago, which might have involved the practice of feasting.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mazel AD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Quaternary International

Year: 2022

Volume: 611-612

Pages: 190-210

Print publication date: 05/12/2021

Online publication date: 01/05/2021

Acceptance date: 20/04/2021

Date deposited: 17/06/2021

ISSN (electronic): 1040-6182

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2021.04.039


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric