Historical Background

Kaditshwene is a pre-colonial Bahurutshe capital which was occupied between 147O and 1820.

The Bahurutshe form part of the cluster communities of Tswana descent who trace their  ancestry to a common ancestor Matsieng and their earliest ruling lineage to Chief Malope(source). The Sotho-Tswana are believed to have generally lived on the Highveld in the interior of South Africa, before spreading to other parts of Southern Africa. The Bahurutshe settlement was spread across the hillscape and extended below the hill along the slope for a few kilometers (Campbell, 1822). Since the Bahurutshe cultivated crops and reared livestock, their settlement must have extended further down the hills in the valleys where they could get suitable soil. This means that the area occupied by Bahurutshe far exceeds the area documented by the missionaries during the early 1990’s. Kaditshwene is known from missionary records; Campbell 1822, Kay 1834 and Moffat 1823 who visited the Bahurutshe before and after the settlement was abandoned in 1822/1823 and from oral accounts of Bahurutshe descendants who recollect the history of the settlement. Also reference to Kaditshwene recurs in literary accounts of Bahurutshe history under Chief Moiloa and Chief Diutlwileng, and other ethnic  groups that were in the region at the time Kaditshwene was occupied. The first colonial  encounter with the Bahurutshe was with Missionary Rev John Campbell of the London Missionary Society, who visited Kaditswene in May1820. During the eight days that Campbell stayed with the Bahurutshe, he documented their way of life which included farming, herding, hunting, mining, smelting iron and copper, smithing and trade. He noted the cultivation of corn fields and rearing of livestock, an economy that was augmented by hunting and trading for valuables with neighbouring ethnic groups. The social organization of the settlement was also in his account as he described the layout of the court place, the household, division of labour and the different household activities that took place while he was there. He noted that “every house was surrounded at a convenient distance by a good circular stone wall yard for each enclosure were plastered on the floor with clay”. (Campbell 1822)

Campbell estimated the population to between 16000 and 20000 people and the settlement is believed to have been largely populated by Bahurutshe “boo-Menwe” and “boo-Mokgatlha”‘. The details of Campbell’s visit to the Bahurutshe are published in his journal “Travels in south Africa, Second Journey in the lnterior of that Country” published in 1822. Other information on his visit is contained in his original, unpublished documents which are kept at the South African National Library in Cape Town (Boeyens 2000:3). Another account of the settlement was given by a Wesleyan-Methodist missionary Stephen Kay, who visited the Bahurutshe a year later than Campbell in August 1821. (Boeyens 2000)

Literature in account of the Bahurutshe history was published in 1935 by E.C. van Hoepen and A.C. Hoffman (researchers of the National Museum in Bloemfontein), who alluded to the stone complexes at Buispoort and Braklaagte. Based on his 1935 visitation, another writer W.P. Laidler described the Bahurutshe capital with the help of the descendant Hurutshe group which occupied the area and were able to relate the history of the then village, as well as to describe the complicated layout of the abandoned settlement. The occupation of Kaditshwene by the Bahurutshe was also confirmed by M.A. Gronum in his 1938 writings, who argued that the Matebele could not have built the massive town as their occupation of the area was too brief.

Ethnological work on Kaditshwene was pioneered in the 1950’s by a state-employed ethnologist P.L. Breutz, who published several monographs on histpry of various Tswana ethnic groups- mainly on recorded oral history traditions. He however ignored the information that Kaditswene was once a Hurutshe capital and therefore associated it to Southern Arabia and probably Bantu who built the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Breutz’ work was followed by that of anthropologist l. Schapera in 1943 and 1951 and historians Legassick and Parsons in the 1970’s.

Formal research on the site was pioneered by Professor Revil Mason who, in 1960 commenced  an aerial survey of the stone-walled complexes in the former Western Transvaal (Boeyens 2000). Even though he wrongly described Vergenoegd site as Kaditshwene, Mason’s work triggered the search for the real Kaditswhene. ln August 1990, G.R. Phillips of Mafikeng Museum visited the  site and measured the diameters of some of the stone enclosures and their associated courtyards, he related the architectural style to the old Rolong settlement south of the Vaal River where huts had two courtyards (Phillips 1990). Phillips estimated that the walls were built to a height of two meters with thickened bases.

ln the 1990’s Boeyens resorted to undertaking an extensive archaeological survey of Late lron Age sites in the South East and parts of Marico (Madikwe). He encountered a large stonewalled complex, with stone ruins covering up to three square kilometres. For purposes of description Boeyens divided the Bahurutshe historical landscape into six sites or complexes (using 1:50 000 topographicalmap) namely 2526 ACL, 2526 ACz, 2526 AC3, 2526 ACs, 2526 ACt3 and 2526 ACL. A closer investigation of complex 2526 AC2 and 2526 AC3 showed, on corroboration with Campbell’s description, that it was Hurutshe leader’s complex, otherwise known as Kgosing (Campbell 1822, Boeyens 2000). Samples obtained for radio carbon dating gave dates between the early 17th and 19th century.

The main features of the complexes that Boeyens focused on ranged from stone enclosures for individual households, kraals, house foundations, granary basis, middens and furnaces to  artifacts such as pottery and bones. Boeyens’ survey also revealed that some stone walls in some parts of Kaditshwene, were well preserved (Boeyens 2000:11). Another complex is about 2 km from the Chief’s place, it has been identified by Boeyens as Senosi’s district, and was populated by boo-Mokgatle (Campbell 1822, Breutzt953, Boeyens 2000). However, due to time constraints, detailed research only covered the chief’s complex, which constituted a smaller percentage of the landscape occupied when encountered by Campbell in 1820. This therefore calls for more research to map the entire site and do excavations, results of which when combined with the written and oral tradition and existing research, may contribute to the development of landscape history methods suitable for studying lron Age societies, especially Southern African Larger lron Age cultures.

Campbell noted in 1820 that the Bahurutshe capital was divided into districts or administrative centres, administered by Headmen or Dikgosana, with the residential centre on the main hill complex being that of Chief Moiloa and members of the royal lineage (Campbell 1822). However, even though Campbell makes mention of other parts of the capital, he spent all of his time, evident in his journal, at the centre of Kgosing – where Diutlwileng stayed. His discussion of this ward gives a general picture of the social organization of the Hurutshe capital. He noted that every house was surrounded by a circular stone wall, and each family had their own grain storage facility. Public meetings or Dipitso were held at the Kgosing and this is where general issues concerning the village would be addressed.

Anthropological work (Schapera 1943) also confirmed that Tswana capitals were grouped into three main sections and these were made up of settlement units called wards – administered on a daily basis by Dikgosana or Headmen. The groupings can clearly be seen in Campbell’s sketch of the village and Boeyens’ map of the kgosana wards. The nucleation of settlements has been attributed to the society’s general world view and people’s attitudes towards economy, politics, religion and status (Schapera 1943, Kuper 1975, Maggs L976, Huffman 1986, Dahlberg and Segobye -et al 1995, Mathibidi 1996). Just like other Tswana ethnic groups and as noted by Campbell in 1820 the Bahurutshe had cultivation areas and places where the rest of the cattle for the society were kept.

During his stay with the Bahurutshe, Campbell noted that subsistence economy centered on mining and smelting iron and copper, smithing, hearding, trade, hunting and cultivation. The mining and hunting – especially for ivory, allowed for trade between the Bahurutshe and other ethnic groups in the region. The Bahurutshe made copper rings, iron implements like axes and traded these for cattle, beads and other valuables (Campbell 1822). Also apparent in Campbell’s writings, is that Bahurutshe were in contact with other Tswana ethnic groups like BaNgwaketse under Chief Makaba and the BaKwena who constantly raided Bahurutshe for cattle. Even though the history of the Bahurutshe appears to be well documented, it lacks an account of what really transpired in the rest of the settlement – the social organization of other wards and whether they were of Hurutshe origin, the distribution of wealth and subsistence practices. The historical and archaeological research undertaken at the site was also based towards the Kgosing wards and this only constituted a smaller percentage of the occupied landscape. This called for further multidisciplinary research to establish the composition of the Hurutshe society, the social organization on the rest of the site, the distribution of wealth, access to and use of land resources, as well as the intangible heritage. All these may all give a better understanding and appreciation of the way of life of the Bahurutshe from the 15th to the 19th century and therefore enhance the significance of Kaditshwene both as an archaeological, historical and contemporary site.