Mapungubwe, located in the very north of South Africa just below the Limpopo River, was an Iron Age settlement and kingdom which flourished between the 11th and 13th century CE. It was perhaps southern Africa's first state. Mapungubwe, whose name means either 'stone monuments' in reference to the large stone houses and walls of the site or 'hill of the jackal', prospered due to the savannah's suitability for cattle herding and its access to copper and ivory which permitted long-distance trade and brought gold and other exotic goods to the ruling elite. The site went into decline from the end of the 13th century CE, most likely due to an exhaustion of local resources, including agricultural land, and the movement of interregional trade to such sites as Great Zimbabwe further north. Mapungubwe was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 CE.

More about: Mapungubwe


  • c. 1070 - c. 1300
    Mapungubwe flourishes in southern Africa.