The Rise of African States

South Africa Table of Contents

By the eighteenth century, several groups of immigrants from the north, known for their skill in smelting iron and in metalworking, had occupied the mountains along the Limpopo River (see fig. 4). This heterogeneous population had coalesced into a number of chiefdoms, known as the Venda, or VaVenda. In the southern Highveld, the powerful Tswana-speaking kingdom known as the Rolong had split, giving rise to the Tlhaping (BaTlhaping) and the Taung. The Taung were named for a legendary military leader (Tau) among the Rolong.

One of several Khoisan-European populations in the interior in the eighteenth century was that of the Griqua, most of whom spoke Dutch as their first language and had adopted Christianity. A unique Griqua culture emerged, based on hunting, herding, and trade with both Africans and Europeans along the Orange River.

The Xhosa and related groups were the westernmost of the Nguni-speaking societies between the southern Highveld and the coast. Rivalries among Xhosa chiefs were common, however, and their society was weakened by repeated clashes with Europeans, especially over land between the Sundays River and the Great Fish River. By the late eighteenth century, the Ndwandwe, Mthethwa, and Ngwane were emerging as powerful kingdoms south of the Highveld. The Zulu were still a small group among the Mthethwa and had not yet begun the conquest and assimilation of neighboring groups that would characterize much of the early nineteenth century.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress