Privileged Places in South Central Mozambique : The archaeology of Manyikeni, Niamara, Songo and Degue-Mufa

University dissertation from Uppsala : Afrikansk och jämförande arkeologi

Abstract: Throughout the 20th century, archaeologists in southern Africa have focused upon visible architectural features of stone built Madzimbabwe settlements as indicators of prestige and power. Manyikeni a stone built settlement in Inhambane province, S. Mozambique dated between 13th and 18th centuries AD is seen in this thesis as an example of the transformation of a landscape by human intervention. A concept of “privileged place” based on a wide range of archaeological and environmental evidence, oral and documentary historical sources is proposed. This concept includes strategic location e.g. in relation to water, soils for agriculture, pasture, resource areas for mining and trade opportunities. The 17th c. site of Degue-Mufa in the Zambezi valley is taken as an example with its privileged position indicated by finds such as local and Indian Ocean trade goods, and the 18th c. stone enclosure of Songo, a trading post with direct contact to the hinterland. Excavated materials and documentary sources illustrate how the meaning of privileged places changed over time. From the 16th c. the agricultural and pastoral places were gradually converted into market places (ferias).The prazo system of land tenure developed in the Zambezi Valley is discussed as a process of Africanization. A discussion of the significance of places for the slave trade is also provided.Privileged places are examined in a gender perspective. Hilltop vs. valleys site locations are considered in relation to Male vs. Female divisions. Power of men over women has been associated with the possession of cattle while women have been given a role as reproductive labor, even though women played a significant role in production through agricultural activities. These issues are discussed in relation to the 15th c. hill-top settlement of Niamara and the valley settlement of Magure in the highlands of Manica. Other privileged places with specific ceremonial significance are exemplified by M’Bire Nhantekwe, a Mutapa state capital in the Zumbo district of Tete province, Central Mozambique. The definition of privileged places aims to assist heritage managers and decision makers by furnishing adequate criteria for evaluating and developing archaeological sites, and the appropriate recommendations are provided.

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