Moxomatsi: the organisation of space in a major Bokoni settlement


  • Tim Maggs University of Cape Town
  • Mats Widgren University of Stockholm


African Iron Age, precolonial farmers, settlement organisation, Mpumalanga history, Bokoni, Moxomatsi


In the archaeological quest towards better understanding the precolonial farming communities of South Africa, Bokoni settlements are doubly important. They represent the only ‘island’ of agricultural intensification in the region. They are also characterised by a wider use of stone in construction than any other such communities. This distinguishing attribute provides us with far greater potential for reconstructing the patterns according to which space was organised in Bokoni, than is possible with other precolonial farming societies. This applies particularly to the larger and more densely built settlements such as Moxomatsi, where intensive use was made of available space. Here we describe the various types of stone-built features and the spatial patterning we can derive from them. Networks of roads and footpaths, together with related features, give us insight into patterns of circulation by people and livestock within the settlement. Circulation routes together with walls, terraces and stone lines contribute to patterns on the ground, which indicate ways in which cultivated land was subdivided and allocated, both adjacent to homesteads and at some distance away. Ways in which groups of homesteads are linked seem to reflect clustering based on kinship, an organisational principle which resonates with ethnographic evidence. Local environmental issues of hydrology, topography, geology, and soils have also played a significant part in how the community used the landscape.



How to Cite

Maggs, T., & Widgren, M. (2023). Moxomatsi: the organisation of space in a major Bokoni settlement. Southern African Humanities, 36, 61–88. Retrieved from