Thulamela, the new archaeological site in the northernmost reaches of Kruger National Park, South Africa, was opened to the public on National Heritage Day (September 24) 1996. Although a number of sites have been excavated south of the Limpopo River, Thulamela is the first to be thoroughly explored in the post-apartheid era.
Since 1993, the Thulamela Project has been unearthing artifacts of an African civilization which occupied a stone-walled citadel between 1250 and 1700.
The site has yielded some significant relics including skeletons of Thulamela's last rulers buried with their gold jewelry; pottery and several forged metal hoes and spear blades.
The forged implements/weapons imply that the people of Thulamela and their neighbors—the Tsonga, Shangaan and Sotho—had begun to extract the mineral riches of southern Africa 800 years ago.
These finds, coupled with the fact that nearly 200 pre-colonial mines have been discovered in the area, show that the Africans extracted the iron ore and converted it into steel; and the Africans did not need European expertise, in the nineteenth century, to locate mineral riches.
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