Lydenburg Heads… image: metmuseum.org
Lydenburg is the town where I grew up since my 5th birthday….on the farm “Goedgedacht” about 15 km outside the town, near Pilgrim’s Rest. Follow this link to read about the Lydenburg Heads….
This group of seven fired earthenware heads is named after the site where they were discovered in the eastern Transvaal of South Africa. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal samples from the excavation site has established that the heads were buried there around 500 A.D., making them the oldest known African Iron Age artworks from below the equator.
The reconstructed heads are not identical, but do share a number of characteristics. Modeled strips of clay form the thinly opened oval eyes, slightly projecting mouths, noses, and ears, and raised bands decorating the faces, while the backs of the heads are adorned with incised linear patterns. The columnar necks are defined by large furrowed rings. Necks ringed with fat have been and continue to be viewed as a sign of prosperity by many African peoples. However, it is currently impossible to know whether the rings on the Lydenburg heads were intended to be read in this way due to the scant information available on the ancient culture that produced them.
Two of the largest heads could have been worn like helmet masks. They are differentiated from the smaller heads by the animal figures poised on their peaks and the small clay spheres that articulate what appears to be raised hairlines. The animals, once covered by a heavy slip, are now difficult to identify but have disk-shaped faces reminiscent of a lion’s mane.
The five smaller heads are similar to one another, with the exception of one that has an animal visage with a projecting snout. Too small to have been worn as helmets, these heads all have small holes on either side of their lowest neck rings that may have been used to attach them to something else.
For a variety of reasons it has been speculated that the heads were used in initiation rites, perhaps even worn. Specularite, a variety of hematite whose crystals glisten when rotated, was placed strategically on the masks in incisions and raised areas such as the eyebrows. This has been cited as a possible indication that the heads were used in public ceremonies, as they would have shimmered impressively when moved in the light. The holes in the five smaller heads and the helmet size of the two larger ones could also indicate that these earthenware heads were masks worn for various ceremonies. None of this can be known for certain, however, and the use and meaning of the heads remain a matter of conjecture. Nevertheless, it is clear from the deliberate manner in which the heads were buried that whatever significance they may have held, they were respected enough to be interred with care.
This tunnel is in the Eastern part of the country….on the road from Lydenburg to Tzaneen… awesome views in this area! Read more about Advocate J G Strijdom, one of the Prime Ministers of South Africa:
If you follow this link….http://www.griquas.com/2006/6.htm you will find fantastic pictures of places in South Africa, historical sites…very interesting!
The Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1890
The town of Lydenburg (55 km from Sabie) have a rich history associated with the Voortrekkers and the Anglo-Boer War. The name “Lydenburg” means Place of Suffering and the town was so named after the many deaths of Voortrekkers at Ohrighstad due to malaria. In 1856 De Republiek Lijdenburg in Zuid Afrika was formed with Lydenburg as the capital. A year later this independent republic merged with the republic of Utrecht (in KwaZulu-Natal) and in 1860 became part of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek once again.
The first church in Lydenburg was completed in 1853. It is the oldest church outside of the Cape Province that survived the wars of the country. Near the church is the original Voortrekker school. It was built in 1851 and was also used as a church building before the church was completed. The Dutch Reformed church was built in 1890 and features a superb pulpit (made from kiaat wood) which is an exact replica of the Stellenbosch Church pulpit.
Love mountain biking/hikes/birdwatching …..and other outdoor sports….read here…