An Ivory Cache from Botswana

By Reid, Andrew; Segobye, Alinah K. | Antiquity, June 2000 | Go to article overview

An Ivory Cache from Botswana


Reid, Andrew, Segobye, Alinah K., Antiquity


Trade between the southern African interior and the Indian Ocean has been used to explain the appearance of extensive settlements and political elites at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers, and along the Zimbabwe Plateau, in the early 2nd millennium AD. Evidence for this trade has come from Arabic and Chinese texts, the burgeoning archaeological trading centres of the coastline, epitomized by Kilwa, and the archaeological remains found on interior sites. Predominantly, archaeological evidence for this trade has been restricted to imported items such as glass and Chinese celadon. Evidence for the commodities moving in the opposite direction is less forthcoming. Gold is by far the best established, documented by written texts, occasional archaeological artefacts and by hundreds of ancient mine workings (Swan 1994). Texts suggest that ivory was also an important commodity in this return trade, particularly in the early centuries of its development, but evidence for ivory on archaeological sites has only sporadically been encountered. This note presents a new find of ivory from northern Botswana and discusses its implications for early aspects of the ivory trade.

Mosu I

Research has been undertaken at the southern end of Sowa Pan, the easternmost portion of the huge Makgadikgadi Pans, as part of Bob swana's contribution to the Swedish international development cooperation agency (Sida)-sponsored Human Responses and Contributions to Environmental Change in Eastern and Southern Africa and Sri Lanka project. This research has focused mostly on a series of late 1st- and early 2nd-millennium AD sites.

In 1997 excavations were conducted at Mosu I. This site is situated on a promontory of the main escarpment, which forms the southern boundary of the pan. The site covers an area of c. 24,000 sq. m and consists of compact deposits of ash, clung and other archaeological debris. Radiocarbon dates indicate that Mosu I was occupied between the 9th and the 13th centuries AD. Zhizo and Leopard's Kopje pottery (recovered at this and other sites in the area) was also used at the major trading settlements of the Limpopo-Shashe confluence. Mosu I and associated sites were clearly part of the broader trading system, since small snapped-cane glass beads were encountered in all excavations. However, these beads were present in considerably smaller quantities than at the major trading sites, indicating the control of trade in the southern African interior by the settlements of the Limpopo-Shashe confluence at this time.

At Mosu I, one excavation unit (A) was intended to investigate a surface concentration of fragments of burnt clay walling, with the possibility of encountering structural remains. Almost immediately it became clear that the underlying deposit was a nondescript grey ashy midden, with relatively high quantities of pottery and bone present and with no obvious features discernible. It was in this deposit that a tightly packed concentration of ivory bangles was encountered (FIGURE 1). The manner in which the bangles were intertwined indicates that the ivory was constrained by some form of bag or sack. Although no cut could be discerned in the deflated sediment, it is likely that the concentration of bangles was deliberately placed in the ground as a consignment. A radiocarbon reading on a charcoal sample taken from the surrounding deposit (Pta-7857: 1110(50), when calibrated, suggests a date from the 10th century AD.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

On recovery, the ivory was found to be very friable and tended to fracture and exfoliate, greatly hampering the conservation and reconstruction of the bangles. The assemblage consists of three complete bangles, two near-complete bangles, three half bangles, and one shorter bangle segment (FIGURE 2). Each bangle consists of a short section of ivory, around 10 mm in length and less than 5 mm in thickness. The internal diameter of the bangles ranges from 65 to 80 mm. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

An Ivory Cache from Botswana
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.