View of Mapungwana, Chipinge, Zimbabwe; Foto: RGZM/D. Gronenborn, July 2014.

Dr. Plan Shenjere-Nyabezi im interviewing Chief Jabulani Anias Mapungwana, Chipinge, Zimbabwe; Foto: RGZM/D. Gronenborn, July 2014.

Cattle herding near Chipinge, Zimbabwe RGZM/Foto: D. Gronenborn, July 2014.


Past, Present, and Future: An Ethno-Archaeological Study of Animal Resource Exploitation and Utilization


Dokumentation pastoralnomadischer Lebensweise und Techniken im Südosten von Simbabwe. Die Daten helfen zum Verständnis jungneolithischer Wirtschaftsweise mit pastoraler Komponente in Mitteleuropa.

The research is designed to carry out an in-depth ethno-archaeological study and documentation of the animal exploitation, utilization processes and practices amongst three contemporary communities in eastern Zimbabwe. The aim is to obtain a clearer understanding of the prehistoric farming communities behavioural patterns in relation to animal resource exploitation within economic, socio-cultural and political realms including herd management strategies.

Understanding behavioural patterns in terms of procurement, use and discard of animal resources through time and space within contemporary societies informs on the archaeological record through analogy. Ethnographic studies are useful in giving information on herd management strategies which include aspects such as slaughter patterns, settlement location and practices in terms of grazing patterns such as seasonal grazing arrangements and the kuronzera concept (temporary loaning of livestock, especially cattle, to a relative or friend for period of time. The results of intergrating archaeological data with ethnographic inquiries including observations and historical information provides more keys to unravelling the behaviour of these communities. The research is also taking particular interest in exploring gender as a sub-theme. Ethnoarchaeology can give pointers to some of the hidden or not so obvious aspects relating to gender issues in archaeology. Communities have been known to be patriachal but it is becoming increasingly clear that women have been influencial in decision making processes as well. Therefore it will be interesting to find out issues dealing with livestock ownership, decision making in the acquisition, management and disposal of animal resources. In lobola (payment of bride price), livestock come with specific ownership indicating that animals stand to be genderised.

The ethnoarchaeological studies are carried out amongst the Hwesa of north-eastern Nyanga, the Manyika of central eastern and the Ndau and Sangwe of south-eastern Zimbabwe.

The study will also contribute to ongoing debates on climate change by showing how humans coped with and adapted to climate changes in prehistory. The past climate in southern Africa is thought to have gone through major fluctuations. The research investigates the interrelation of interannual and annual climate/weather changes on the pastoralist societies, particularly how fast and how thoroughly these societies change their herd management strategies. These observations are expected to help understand how prehistoric societies coped with short-term climate/environment challenges. Long-term responses to climate change cannot be observed directly within the time-frame of the project but may be inquired through tapping the social memory of the respective societies.

At RGZM the project has a direct link to the studies on Neolithic sites, specifically those of the Michelsberg culture which was based on an agropastoral economy. Analogies with the present Zimbabwean societies help understand how such societies use the landscape.


  • University of Zimbabwe