The Lydenburg heads

08 November 2004

Highest honour: Prof Daya Reddy received The Order of Mapungubwe (Bronze) from President Thabo Mbeki.

The Lydenburg heads are the earliest known forms of African sculpture in southern Africa and are dated at between AD500 and AD800. The head pictured here is one of the seven hollow terracotta sculptures named after the site at which they were discovered in the late 1950s.

UCT archaeologist Ray Inskeep realised their importance and the need for controlled excavations on the site.

It is believed that they were used as ceremonial objects during the performance of initiation rituals, and while their meaning remains enigmatic, they testify to a complex aesthetic sensibility among early agricultural communities in southern Africa, a millennium before the advent of European colonisation. Replicas of this head will be awarded to recipients of the UCT Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Leadership in Africa.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.