The End of the Game?
With the European colonists' exploration of the Cape came the rolling back of the great herds of game in the Karoo and grasslands of the Central Highveld. The hidden foundation of the Boer Republics' economy, and the imperialist objectives of the exploitation of Africa's resources, saw the extermination of an estimated twenty million head of game between 1780 and 1880 on Southern Africa's once densely populated vast interior basin plains.
There are poignant reminders of what was perhaps once the world's greatest theatre of sub-continental diversity unfolding continuously since the Paleocene era. Like in other parts of the world, European colonial ambitions caused catastrophic biodiversity loss with large-scale transformations in the landscape. These represent the second wave of ecological destruction by mankind which was preceded by the Neolithic wave of human invasion several thousand years before. In South Africa, this later phase caused the extinction of the Quagga and the Bloubok, and the local extinction in the Cape, Free State and parts of the Northwest of elephant, buffalo, white and black rhino, lion, eland, roan, sable and tsessese. The naturally occurring range of these three latter species has shrunk into the Central Lowveld region.
For close on two thousand years, Bantu Kingdoms have occupied the Savannah and Escarpment regions leaving a rich and colourful history which has been sadly ignored and neglected beginning with the successive governments of the early Republics due to conquest, and in the Apartheid era as part of a policy of exclusion and exploitation. Research in the fields of African languages, physical anthropology and archaeology have revealed the establishment of long-founded and highly innovative technologies suggesting a 'tried and tested' incremental model of expanding agricultural pursuits enhanced by the local availability and supply (via trade routes) of crucial resources such as iron ore, timber and water.
Source: "Kambaku"; H Manners; Ernest Stanton, 1980.
The juxtaposition of Phalaborwa as a manufacturing region (making iron agricultural implements, weapons, wire, ornaments and attracting trade resources including salt, ivory and hardwoods in return) and the city states of Mapugubwe in the west, Great Zimbabwe in the north, and the coastal ports of Sofala, Inhambane and Delagoa Bay, reflects a landscape rich in natural resources sufficient to sustain permanent stratified societies for over two millenia prior to the arrival of Dutch and British colonisers and settlers.
The largest and most decentralised ancient mining industry found in Southern Africa was around Phalaborwa, where malachite and azurite ores were mined for copper, red ochre as a highly valuable and symbolic colouring agent, and magnetite (for iron).