History Monday: Leopard’s Kopje (CE900-1400) Part 2: Characteristics

Last History Monday, we looked at the Occupation timeline of Leopard’s Kopje. This week we will look at the characteristics of Leopard’s Kopje.

During the excavation of Leopard’s Kopje, various archaeological characteristics were found.


Archaeo-botanical evidence of seeds of finger millet, ground beans, sorghum, cowpeas, and wild plants. The occupiers would also have consumed meat from the livestock they kept. Such as cattle, goats and sheep. Every indication point to a healthy balanced diet.  The occupiers seem to have been farmers and herders.


The people kept cattle at the centre of their villages. This has been attributed to the importance of cattle to the daily life of villagers. Archaeologists found evidence of cattle teeth that dated to the 10th Century and gave evidence to the increased cultural complexity of the villagers and the introduction of larger cattle herds. This increase in cattle could be due to the development of gold trade in the region.


Huffman’s excavations found glass and shell beads at the Zhizo phase level, dating back to the 9th century. Some clay beads were also discovered at the Mambo phase level. Robinson’s 1961 excavation found just two glass beads. Both were cylindrical and blue-green in colour, typical of phase II of the Leopard’s Kopje culture.

Iron Smelting

Strong evidence of iron smelting has been found at the Mambo phase level, and bits of iron slag have been found at the Zhizo phase level, suggesting that iron-smelting existed at Leopard’s Kopje as early as the 9th century


The middle Iron Age brought about a shift from communal ownership of pottery to private ownership. Leopard’s Kopje ceramic style is known for being multidimensional, with incised and excised bands. Shallow bowls and plates, jars with triangles, and beakers with high burnished necks are also typical. In Robinson’s 1961 excavation alone, 182 pottery fragments were uncovered. The most common vessel found was a shouldered pot with a concave neck and either an incised ladder pattern or a chevron pattern. These motifs were created with incisions or stabs, rather than comb-stamping. Few of the burnished beakers and bowls found were decorated

Stone Buildings:

Buildings in the kopje are stone. Evidence of stone buildings was found at the Refuge phase. The evolution from  earthen houses to stone buildings is an indication of social changes, much like the introduction of larger cattle herds

Archaeology Pottery.jpg


1. Robinson, K. R. (1966). “The Leopard’s Kopje Culture, Its Position in the Iron Age of Southern Rhodesia”. The South African Archaeological Bulletin. 21 (81): 5–51.

2. Huffman, Thomas N. (1971). “Excavations at Leopard’s Kopje Main Kraal: A Preliminary Report”. The South African Archaeological Bulletin. 26 (101/102): 85–89.

3. Huffman, Thomas N. (1984). “Leopard’s Kopje and the nature of the Iron Age in Bantu Africa”. Zimbabwe: 28–35.

4. Huffman, Thomas N. (1989). “Ceramics, settlements and Late Iron Age migrations”. African Archaeological Review. 7: 155–182.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s