Archeological Heritage Sites in Kruger National Park

Old African Settlements

©Roger de la Harpe
Thulamela Cultural Site, near Punda Maria Camp, Kruger National Park.
The Kruger National Park is dotted with the remains of old African settlements, which were gradually abandoned after the park was declared. The only ones which have been restored are Thulamela and Masorini. Perhaps other, more recent, remains will be resurrected in the future.

Thulamela: A stunning archaeological site, Thulamela is a stone-walled iron age settlement, located on top of a tall hill. It is only accessible as part of a guided tour from Punda Maria.

Makahane Ruins are of an African iron-age settlement, ruled over by the cruel Makahane. Related to Thulamela, but more recent. Located near Punda Maria.

Along with Thulamela, Masorini is the other major iron-age archaeological site in the Kruger National Park in the Phalaborwa region. It is located on the H-9 tar road, 12 km from Phalaborwa Gate and 39 km from Letaba Rest Camp, at the foot of a prominent hill.

Named after a former chief, Masorini is a later Iron Age settlement that was inhabited by the Sotho speaking BaPhalaborwa people during the 1700s and 1800s. Like the earlier people of Thulamela, the BaPhalaborwa had a sophisticated understanding of iron smelting technology and were able to skilfully mine and process various metals. Spearheads, arrowheads and agricultural implements were among the items they manufactured. During the time of the BaPhalaborwa, Masorini was part of an extensive trade network that included dealings with the Venda to the north and the Portuguese on the East Coast. Copper was thus exchanged for exotic glass beads, ivory and other trade goods, and the settlement of Masorini grew to be quite prosperous.

Masorini Archaeological Museum: A rewarding open-air museum that re-creates an African iron-age settlement, in the style of the BaPhalaborwa. Located close to Phalaborwa Gate.

Bushman Rock Art

©Roger de la Harpe
Grind stones at Thulamela Cultural Site, Kruger National Park.
There are about 130 documented Bushman rock art sites within the Kruger National Park, along with three rare rock engravings. None are easily accessible to the public at the moment, except as part of the three-night Bushman’s walking trail, which departs from Berg-en-Dal.

Bushman paintings can also be viewed, if a guide is present, from a spot on the banks of the Crocodile River, near the rest camp, where hippos are commonly seen lazing in the shallows.

By David Fleminger