Shona ethnography and the archaeology of K2 burials


  • S. Hattingh University of Cape Town
  • S. Hall University of Cape Town


The early second-millenium K2 burial collection is the largest recovered from a southern African Iron Age site. Even though most of these came from Gardner's excavations in the 1930s, the quality of the data is good enough to identify some patterns in the way they were interred. The focus is on the juvenile burials, and in particular on the location of these burials in the domestic areas of the settlement and on their orientation. The emphasis is also on the significance of beakers as appropriate pots for inclusion in the graves, and the distribution of pots around the head and over the pelvis. Shona and Eastern Bantu ethnography is used extensively to amplify these patterns. Discussion concentrates on the ritual cooling of pollution stemming from death, and the symbolism of pots in relation to fertility. Despite the focus on ancestral Shona speakers at K2, it is suggested that the patterns and cultural principles identified and discussed occur throughout the southern African Iron Age.



How to Cite

Hattingh, S., & Hall, S. (2009). Shona ethnography and the archaeology of K2 burials. Southern African Humanities, 21, 299–326. Retrieved from