Terrace on Phutwane

Aerial View of Phutwane

Masorini in the far background

Current Mining Activities



Site Map





Phutwane is a cluster of three kopjes located on the eastern perimeter of the Masękę-Malatji’s sphere of influence in Phalaborwa. A cluster of syenite hills, three of which are particularly prominent, embraces the site.  The hills are located in the far eastern parts of the Palabora Mining Company terrain and in the close proximity to the border fence between the mine and the Kruger National Park. (The kopje was formerly marked as "Impala" on some mine maps).


Historical evidence

No historical evidence is available for this settlement.


Archaeological remains

The archaeological remains associated with this settlement are located between the clusters of kopjes. They are spread over two levels or platforms between these protrusions. No clear spatial organisation can be distinguished in the archaeological remains of either of these two platforms.  The lower lying part, which is situated in the north, is marked by at least two thick deposits of ash (middens) and a concentration of slag occurs against some of the boulders.

The southern part of the site, which is situated a little higher up than the northern platform, also contains a deposit with archaeological remains and at least two lower grinding stones. A few low walls were also built in this part of the settlement. However, it is unclear what their purpose were.


Phutwane as a metalworking site

Three major sites, Shankare, Muhululu and Nagome were located close to Phutwane.

Muhululu was the capital of Paane, one of the early rulers of the Masękę-Malatji.  Nagome was the most important and probably one of the most ancient settlements of this group of metal workers. No historical evidence for Phutwane has as yet been collected. It is uncertain whether any person living today may still be able to cast some light on this site and its original occupants.

Phutwane has not yet been archaeologically investigated. The spatial features of this site have been mapped and are illustrated in a plan drawing. The site is composed of:

o       at least one iron smelting site on level ground on the outskirts of the cluster of kopjes; and

o       terraces used for habitation and for iron forging on the lower slopes of the kopjes in this cluster, towards the centre of the cluster of kopjes.

Consequently, iron smelting and residential remains on Phutwane were geographically separated from each other. However, iron forging was done in residential areas, a pattern consistent with that observed at other sites in the Phalaborwa complex.

The iron-smelting site reveals the remains of at least one iron reduction furnace damaged by the roots of a tree dislodged by an elephant. The slagheap associated with this site may cover several more furnaces. A massive anvil marks an iron-forging site located on a terrace opposite the iron-smelting site and several hammer stones. The iron forge is associated with at least two linked terraces. Excavations may reveal the remains of an iron forge furnace on this terrace.

Two residential areas can be distinguished on Phutwane.

o    The first area, which also contains evidence for iron forging, is located between all three of the kopjes in the Phutwane cluster. This area is situated to the north of the second residential area and is also located on a slightly lower level than the second residential area. It includes terraces on the lower foot slope of two of the kopjes; middens; what may be a grave; lower grinding and hammer stones; and semi-circular shelters built with stone in which iron forging and or the secondary working of copper was practised.

o    The second residential area is located on higher ground to the south of the first residential area and is situated between two of the three kopjes in the Phutwane cluster. Linked terraces located on the lower opposing slopes of the two kopjes mark this area.

Other features associated with these two clusters of terraces include lower grinding and hammer stones; a heap of stones (grave?); a cache with three iron hoes and middens.   

Isolated stone tools are scattered over Phutwane. It is unclear whether the metal workers or people living with the metal workers (such as specialised hunters) manufactured these artefacts, as some have Middle Stone Age features. (If these tools date from the Middle Stone Age, they may be as old as 150 000 years). However, Iron Age people have been known to manufacture stone tools by using Stone Age technologies.


State of preservation

The site has not been affected by mining or any other developmental activities and is in pristine condition.



Name of Site



Merensky 32 LU   GPS  -24.0089.31.2055


Letaba/Mopane District


Limpopo Province

Nearest  town to site


Owner of Property on which site is found:

Palabora Mining Company

Erf number


Zoning of area


Size of buffer/exclusion zone

Within private game reserve (Cleveland) where access is controlled.

Type of site

Archaeological site dating from iron age.

To whom does site have significance:

Local communities

Is site under any threat:


Details of threat:

Natural weathering and wildlife activity.

What are the National and Regional Laws affecting this site?

South African Heritage Resources Act.
The Environmental Conservation Act.
Minerals Act.
Limpopo Heritage Regulations GN103 of 2003

Are there any laws re payment of royalties?


Has local community launched a claim?

Yes. Land claim in larger Phalaborwa region.

Which community has lodged a claim?

Four local groups.

Would such a claim be possible?


What are the business implications of the Legal Obligations?

Do not necessary have to interfere with mining activities.

Has site been declared a Heritage site:


Has site the potential of being declared a Heritage site:


Government Gazette Reference No

No number.

Would such registration affect any claims?

Possible. Further research required.

Date Registered as Cultural /Heritage site.

No registered as such but identified as such a site. Only found in 1997.


Management Details.

For whom does site have significance ?

Local communities

To what extent are interested communities involved ?

Regular visits.

When last did a community representative visit this site?

September 2006

Who was that Member.

Representative from Maseke Malatjie,

What specific site did they visit?

Phutwane and Moloto

What was purpose of visit ?

Grave sites /ancestral communication

Who is responsible for identifying cultural property ?

Individuals accredited with ASAPA

Are outside expertise required to assist in identification ?


Are outside expertise required to assist in the management ?


Who is assisting in identification and management ?

Dr J Pistorius

Is any information on cultural sites restricted (secret/sacred)?


Is there a mechanism in place to ensure the register is checked before any new projects are planned ?

Not at present – could be done fairly easily.

What consultation processes are in place when new projects are planned (dams, dumps )?

Formal community consultation process in place for all major new projects where environment and community could be affected.

Are the interested communities consulted in these plans ?

As above.  Representatives also participate in mine closure plan.

Company Policy and Procedure in place ?

Yes for new projects

Company Policy/Procedure Reference and date:

SHEQ3-03-Communication –03.09.2003

Are sites identified in closure plan ?

Not in detail. A gap in the closure plan which will be addressed.

Closure Plan reference for these sites


Are sites affected by closure plan ?


Other management initiatives/requirements.

Rio Tinto Cultural Heritage Management System. (CHMS)
Rio Tinto 5 Year Community Relations Plan now requires  a compulsory “Register of Cultural Property”.

What plans are in place for these sites after closure ?

Potential for eco tourism, on site museums   education.

Research strategy endorsed by the South African Heritage Resource Agency. (SAHRA).

Phase 1 = Archaeological survey

Phase 2 = Investigations plus salvage work and detailed archaeological work.

Phase 3 = Management plan to ensure sustainable existence of the sites. In situ protection

Phase 1 =Completed for all known sites at Palabora. Several new sites have since been discovered.

Phase 2 =Completed except salvage work
Electronic data and information register.
Artefacts plotted and photographed.
Mapping and information brochure completed.

Phase 3 = No work under this phase has been done on any of the sites at Palabora.



Who will be affected if a cultural/heritage site plan is not implemented

Palabora Mining Company.

What is a nature of the risks

Legal prosecution

Can operations be planned or located to ensure sites remain protected ?


Can sites/assets be relocated without damage or loss of significance?

Sites no. Assets such as artefacts yes.

Is a scientific study/salvage museum relevant?


Do communities need to be consulted before any site is excavated/disturbed for research purposes ?


If some impacts are accepted as unavoidable how will losses be valued?

Heritage resources are not renewable.

What sort of compensation should be made in these circumstances?

Creating alternatives e.g. museums.


Are there any related museums/collections in the region?



Foskor Museum. Bollonoto tourist Center display.
The Moore Collection (Private).
Limited display of artefacts Palabora Mining Company



Who will undertake monitoring

Dr Julius CC Pistorius. (From time to time with SAHRA representative)

What will the frequency be ?


How will this monitoring be reported ?

In writing according to a format to be established.


Indicators of Successful Protection.

Is property correctly identified and mapped ?


Is affected communities satisfied with procedures ?

Not consulted at this stage.

Do institutions report that cultural property is properly protected ?

Not involved at this stage.


Implementation and Reporting. 

Is a cultural site register in place?

Yes – Electronic version

To whom is register accessible?

All interested parties.

Is a Cultural Site/Heritage Committee in place?

Yes –Palabora Heritage Committee

Is local community involved in the sustainable development of the site?

Local community members were invited to participate in the closure plan  (reviewed every five years)

Training and awareness?

Heritage Guide training courses are in place.


Status assessment.

Date of last assessment

September 2002

State of  Preservation

Iron smelting and forging = slightly affected due to natural processes, weathering, wildlife activity.

Potential - Training. Education. Tourism


Potential – National Heritage site – Declare national monument


Potential –Research (unlocking new information)


Status of site in relation to other sites in the country/region

Not known

Utilisation current?

Education and Training. Tourism

Potential utilisation – future and post mine closure

Education. Tourism. Site Museum



**  Pistorius, J.C.C. April 1989. Die Metaalbewerkers van Phalaborwa. Ongepubliseerde D.Phil. proefskrif. Universiteit van Pretoria.

**  Pistorius, J.C.C. September 1998. Archaeological Survey and Assessment of Palabora Mining Areas.   An addendum  to Palabora Mining’s Environmental Management Program. Unpublished report for Palabora Mining Company.



Rio Tinto and Shareholders
Palabora Mining Company
Kruger National Park
Local Communities
Provincial Government
South African Heritage Resource Agency. (SAHRA)
Department of Minerals and Energy
Palabora Foundation