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The glass beads of Kaitshàa and early Indian Ocean trade into the far interior of southern Africa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2015

James Denbow
Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 2201 Speedway C3200, TX 78712, USA (Email: School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, 1 Jan Smuts Avenue, Braamfontein 2000, South Africa
Carla Klehm
Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St Louis, Campus Box 1114, One Brookings Drive, St Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA
Laure Dussubieux
Elemental Analysis Facility, The Field Museum, 1400 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA


The later African Iron Age saw a shift to centralised polities, as seen in the expansion of hegemonies such as Great Zimbabwe. During this period, trade with the interior of Africa became increasingly centrally controlled. Excavations at the site of Kaitshàa, on the edge of the Makgadikgadi saltpans in Botswana, have revealed how a small settlement based on prehistoric salt trading was able to take its place in the Indian Ocean trade network before such centralised polities arose. Using compositional analysis of glass beads, the authors argue that this site in the central Kalahari Desert exemplifies the role of heterarchy and indigenous agency in the evolving political economy of the subcontinent.

Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd., 2015 

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