July 9, 2003

Mapungubwe declared a World Heritage site

South Africa's most well-known Iron Age site, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape was approved to be added to the World Heritage List at the 27th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) World Heritage Committee in Paris. Mapungubwe is situated at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers in the Limpopo Province. The area includes the archaeological sites of Schroda, K2 and Mapungubwe.

In its statement on the listing, Unesco describes Mapungubwe as the centre of the largest kingdom in the sub-continent before it was abandoned in the 14th century. "What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them, as well as two earlier capital sites, the whole presenting an unrivalled picture of the development of social and political structures over some 400 years," Unesco said.

Excavations at Mapungubwe have unearthed a number of what are thought to be royal artefacts, including the famous Mapungubwe golden rhinoceros. The site and Makapan's Valley, also in Limpopo Province, were both declared national heritage sites by the South African Heritage Resources Agency in 2001. They were the first two sites to be declared under the 1999 National Heritage Resources Act.

The declaration of the Limpopo province’s Mapungubwe as a World Heritage Site has been hailed as “another milestone in the crusade of the African Renaissance”. Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Valli Moosa welcomed the declaration of Mapungubwe as a World Heritage Site as “opportune” just before the gathering of African leaders in Maputo for the African Union summit. “The history of Mapungubwe will play a key role in the African Renaissance and the rewriting of Southern African history. Slowly but surely, the richness of SA’s past is occupying the global agenda” said Moosa. (The Star / Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)

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