ARTHUR HORN

The University of Pretoria plays host to a historic exhibition of South African golden art in the Mapugubwe Museum. The museum is allocated in the Old Arts Building, otherwise known as the “Bokkiegebou”. The exhibition tells the lush history of Africa with regard to the ancient art of sculpting using gold as a medium.

The artifacts were extracted from the Mapugubwe archaeological site over the last century and vary from golden nails to jewellery and decorative artifacts. The history covered in the exhibition traces the occurrences on this heritage site from the fossilised remains of dinosaurs to the Iron Age when the most precious artifacts of the exhibition were made.

Perdeby was present at the unveiling of the collection on 28 October 2009 where experts described Mapugubwe as a precious and threatened location. The site is under threat from the international mining industry and the building of infrastructure related to this industry.

Though the site is not fully excavated, several graves have been unearthed which contain the remains of people of high social status and wealth. Some of the remains have not been identified as male or female as several of the skeletons are incomplete. There is, however, leeway for deducing certain facts, as the presence of large amounts of jewellery have identified certain remains as female.

The cornerstone of the exhibition in the golden rhino on display in the centre of the room. Also included is a figurine of an eland, and a gold scepter. Various other items can be seen such as several golden bangles and a helmet.

The collection is a must-see on the campus. On the upper level of the Old Arts Building is an exquisite collection that has existed since 1933, and has not been on display in its entirety through much of its history. The archaeological significance has been compared to that of Great Zimbabwe, as the museum houses the largest collection of ancient gold artifacts in South Africa.

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