Cultural Heritage Sites in Kruger National Park

Cultural Heritage Sites: Masorini hill reconstructed archeological site.
Cultural Heritage Sites: Masorini hill reconstructed archeological site.

Numerous historic locations and many prehistoric rock art sites attest to The Kruger National Park's rich cultural heritage.


Masorini Heritage Site

When it was decided to restore the village of Masorini in 1973, there was nothing except some stone walls, grinding stones, potsherds, the remains of foundries dating back to the 19th century, and some implements dating back to the Stone Age. When excavation work eventually began, it revealed hut floors and other remains that provided information on the inhabitants' way of living, the types of hut used, the foundries in which iron was worked, the nature of their commerce and their socio-domestic activities.

Unlike Thulamela, Masorini is not really that old. Research has revealed that the site was inhabited by a group of people belonging to the baPhalaborwa clan and that they made a living by manufacturing and selling iron artifacts during the Stone Age era. The picturesque Masorini Hill is situated about 11km (6 miles) from Phalaborwa entrance gate, along the road to Letaba restcamp.

This village offers an example of a specialized economy and well-developed technology that existed before the arrival of the white man in South Africa. It also offers the interested visitor insight into the livelihood of the hunter-gathering society of the Stone Age era that formed an integral part of the natural environment and made use of whatever nature offered in a unique way.

Thulamela Hill

An archaeological research team revealed the first evidence of prehistoric habitation of the far northern part of the Kruger National Park in 1990. The team had been conducting preliminary excavations and documenting stone ruins on Thulamela in the Pafuri area, in an attempt to find out more about the settlement.

During the course of the investigation, they came across the first artifacts that could provide some insight into this lost era of South African history. In the end the investigation confirmed that the stone ruins were probably the remains of a Late Iron Age settlement. While searching through the middens in the area, the researchers came across further remains gold beads, charcoal, Ostrich-shell beads, perforated ornamental cowrie shells, clay spindle whorls, ivory and metal rings. Radiocarbon dating indicated this site to have been inhabited from the 15th to mid-17th century.

On the basis of these preliminary discoveries, it became clear that urther excavations were necessary if the secret past of the region was to be revealed. With the sponsorship by the Gold Fields Foundation, the Thulamela project was officially launched in July 1993 with the intended purpose of restoring the site and turning it into a museum. The reconstructed stonewalled settlement was officially opened as cultural heritage site museum on Heritage Day, 24 September 1996.

Arts & Crafts

This is another interesting development in the quest to add value to the total experience of the visitor to the Kruger National Park. Nowadays, visitors to this world famous park have the opportunity to interact with local folks - through their work of art. This has been made possible trough the initiatives of the Social Ecology Unit in the Kruger National Park, which among other things, has set itself the task of facilitating and supporting the arts and crafts practitioners within the communities living adjacent to the park, there by making a contribution towards economic empowerment.

One notable initiative is the Skukuza Arts and Crafts Alliance initiated in 1994 with individual woodcarvers who were selling their artifacts along the roads leading to the southern part of Kruger Park. These woodcarvers were organized into an alliance, and a sales outlet was built for them at Numbi gate in 1997. Training was arranged to improve their skills in quality control, diversification, business management, and sales / marketing. Since then training, their income and product quality has improved and they are now supplying their products to wider markets.

Their products range from grass mats, carved animals and pottery bowls to other interesting artifacts. From now on, tourists visiting the Southern part of the Kruger National Park Skukuza, Berg-en-Dal, Biyamiti, Malelane and Pretoriuskop can visit the sales outlet at Numbi gate. A similar venture is planned for Phalaborwa Gate.

Travel Access to the Sites:

Thulamela Hill
Although visitors access the site through any one of the eight gates into the Kruger National Park, the most convenient ones, when entering the park, are Pafuri and Punda Maria gates.

Masorini Village
This Cultural Heritage site can also be accessed through any one of the eight access gates to the park. However, the most convenient is the Phalaborwa gate. Pafuri gate is approximately 630km (391 miles) from Johannesburg; Phalaborwa and Punda Maria gates both some 550 km (341 miles). Since entrance and restcamps gates are closed at night, allow sufficient travelling time to ensure timeous arrival at your destination. There will be no permits for late arrivals. Latecomers at entrance gates will be refused entry, whilst offenders at restcamps will be fined.

Other Interesting Sites

  • Albasini ruins
  • Skukuza hut museum
  • Stevenson-Hamilton memorial library
  • Dog's graveyard (Little Heroes Acres)



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