Bongumenzi Nxumalo will be presenting his research on the role of hydrological changes and the demise of southern Africa’s earliest state-society: Mapungubwe (1200–1300 CE) in the Shashe-Limpopo basin, South Africa. The rise and demise of Mapungubwe has long been linked to significant climate changes: increased rainfall would have supported intensive agro-pastoral activities and demographic growth, later declining due to the onset of drier conditions. This model is based on archaeological survey records and oral histories, with very limited regional climatic/environmental data. A number of studies combining historical data, climatic sequences, geoarchaeological investigation, and Geographic Information Systems modeling showed that, within major climatic trends worldwide, landscapes often experience different conditions at the local scale. Thus, hydrological changes in the Shashe-Limpopo basin are highly influenced by seasonal variability (e.g., excessive flooding) and distribution of rainfall. New research examined hydrological changes at Mapungubwe using advanced morphometric analysis and hydrological modeling of past rainfall regimes to understand how prehistoric societies in sub-Saharan Africa could have interacted with the changing landscapes.
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