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Photo of Sidney Miller SIDNEY MILLER

Archaeologist Sidney Miller has been working for three years at the Thulamela excavation inside the Kruger Park near the border of Mozambique and Zimbabwe in South Africa. Dating back to the thirteenth century, this site was a royal citadel perched on a commanding hilltop and the burial site of a sixteenth-century king and queen of the Venda people.

Miller's work at the site, which has entailed laboriously rebuilding the collapsed walls stone-by-stone, is now revealing the history of the Venda people in rich detail. His has discovered cowrie shell, a seashell used for trade money; glass beads from as far afield as India; and iron bells known in west Africa, two thousand miles away, but never before seen in southern Africa. These finds indicate that the people of Thulamela had wide outside contacts. Other discoveries, including harpoons for hunting hippo and hoes for field work, reveal the Venda as skilled metal workers. With these objects, Miller's archaeology is revealing the breadth and sophistication of life at Thulamela.

See Sidney Miller's answers to Ask the Scientists questions.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
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