Feasting among Venda-speakers of South Africa: the Late Iron Age fauna from Mutokolwe

Munyadziwa MAGOMA, Shaw BADENHORST & Innocent PIKIRAYI

en Anthropozoologica 53 (17) - Pages 195-205

Published on 07 December 2018

Mutokolwe is located in the northern part of South Africa. The site was occupied by Venda-speaking farmers during the Late Iron Age. One of the most unusual aspects from this faunal assemblage is the presence of complete metapodia of cattle and sheep. No other faunal assemblage from farming sites in southern Africa contains as many complete specimens, including long bones, as that from Mutokolwe. Skeletal completeness is one of the signatures which signal feasting activities from the archaeological record. Feasting has been recognised in different parts of the world, including Africa. Based on ethnographic accounts, feasting was also common amongst Bantu-speaking farmers of southern Africa, and in particular, Venda-speakers. Taking into account limitations posed by archaeological, ethnography and early historical descriptions, we suggest that the complete long bones of livestock signal feasting activities at Mutokolwe. The faunal assemblage from the site contains an unusual high percentage of identifiable remains, indicating that it was likely subjected to biased sampling. Moreover, few wild animals are present in the assemblage, which suggests, sampling biases aside, that domestic animals were favoured in feasts possibly due to their association with people and ancestors.

Keywords :

Feasting, Mutokolwe, fauna, cattle, sheep, Venda-speakers, Late Iron Age.

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