Smelter Evidence

Pestle Stone


Aerial View of Shankare Hill



Site Details





Shankare Hill is located on the farm Loole (31LU), 4 to 5km to the north-east of Loolekop.

Settlements which used to exist in its immediate vicinity were Nagome, Nareng and Moloto Hills. Three hills with archaeological remains located to the east, north and to the west of Shankare were designated Shankare 2, Shankare 3 and Shankare 4.


Historical evidence

No historical information could be located for Shankare Hill, except that the settlement my have been occupied by the Changaan as the name Shangaankop is also used for this site. The Changaan also occupied settlements such as Pjene (Masorini), Marupale and Masakoleng Hills. This settlement may have been an earlier Sotho and its original occupants may have been Sotho (Bamalatji).

A particular piece of evidence remembered with regard to Shankare Hills the copper ingots (marale) which were manufactured at the hill and used as marriage goods.


Archaeological remains

Shankare Hill is dome-shaped with a steep northern slope on which a series of approximately eighteen terraces were built. An extensive deposit containing metal working and domestic debris skirts the northern foot of the hill and was also noted to the east and south of the hill were this deposits and other features were damaged when a water reservoir was built on a hillock adjacent to Shankare.

The deposit north of Shankare Hill is studded with large syenite boulders. Those with flat, horizontal surfaces contain funnel-shaped depressions, smoothly rubbed or slightly concave surfaces where ores (magnetite and malachite), fluxes (quartzite and magnetite) and other admixtures were prepared for smelting activities.

Magnetite and quartzite may have been crushed in the depressions on the rocks. Softer materials such as malachite, ochre, limestone and bone, was possibly ground on the surface of the boulders.

The archaeological features, some of which were excavated, associated with Shankare Hill include:


The archaeological investigation

The earliest archaeological research done in Phalaborwa included Reville Mason’s excavations at Nareng Hill and Shankare Hill. Mason investigated four features at Shankare Hill, namely

Two radio-carbon dates, from the iron forge enclosure and from one of the middens, provided a 17th to a 19th century date for these features of Shankare Hill.

Also located to the north-east, but directly against the base of Shankare hill, a CR2 copper smelting furnace, which has since been destroyed, was photographed thirty years ago by Charles Moore.

Archaeological features investigated include:


The terraces

Terrace SHA1T1 had two levels. The larger and higher part held a solidly-built, circular clay floor (1,0m diameter), covered with pottery with Letaba-style decorations and clay with pole-impression markings. The smaller platform held a rectangular, crumbly clay floor (0,5m diameter), covered with a thick layer of ash and clay nodules with thin, semi-circular impression markings.

The larger floor was probably part of a shelter, such as a hut, built with a wooden framework and covered with clay. Its floor contained several pots. Two lower grinding stones stood outside, next to the hut. The small clay floor with its open hearth and clay ingots was probably used for the re-melting and casting of copper.

Terrace SHA1T18 is located 2,5m above ground level. Its surface could be divided into two activity areas, namely: 

The first activity area was used for the forging of iron. The second activity area was probably used to collect copper pills from the copper slag which was then re-melted in the iron forge furnace.


The first millennium copper melting site

A part of the deposit (SHA2M1) that skirts the northern base of Shankare Hill was excavated. This deposit contained heavy concentrations of copper slag and pieces of malachite which were only partly reduce. Syenite stones, pieces of clay and potsherds to which metal slag adhered indicate that copper was melted and smelted in rudimentary furnaces (CR4) and in crucible (CR5) found on the surfaces of two fragmented clay floors covered with ash deposits,

A single radio-carbon date from the ashy deposit indicates that the copper smelting site was approximately 1000 years old.


State of preservation

Although some of the features of Shankare Hill were destroyed by development activities, the majority of the most important parts, such as the extensive deposit to the north of the site and the eighteen terraces on the northern slope of the hill, have remained intact. The site, therefore, has only been slightly affected by development activities.



Name of Site



Loole 31 LU   GPS  -23.9684,31.1615


Letaba/Mopane District


Limpopo Province

Nearest  town to site


Owner of Property on which site is found:

Palabora Mining Company – surface rights

Erf number


Zoning of area


Size of buffer/exclusion zone

Buffer with varying diameter circumscribing site.

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:

Landfill site in close proximity. Mining activity. 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.


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?

No visit to this site but 2003 other sites at Palabora were visited.

Who was that Member.

Representative from Maseke Malatjie, Makushane, Mashishimale and Chairperson of the Mathebula Royal Council

What specific site did they visit?

Moloto and Phutwane

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 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 in respect of  Shankare.
Electronic data and information register.
Artifacts plotted and photographed.
Mapping and information brochure pending.

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 artifacts 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 artifacts 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 1998

State of  Preservation

Ground level and hill slope terraces =Pristine
Iron smelting and forging = slightly affected

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

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