About 200 coloured glass beads (red, yellow, green, blue, white, black, pink, plum) excavated on Mapungubwe hill and at K2, archaeological sites in the Limpopo valley South Africa, were studied with Raman scattering. This is also the most southern site in Africa where evidence for glass reworking has been found. The glass matrix of the beads was classified according to its Raman signature into three main subgroups and corroded glass could also be identified. At least seven different chromophores or pigments (lazurite, lead tin yellow type II, Ca/Pb arsenate, chromate, calcium antimonate, Fe–S ‘amber’ and a spinel) were identified. Many of the pigments were manufactured after the 13th century, confirming the presence of modern beads in the archaeological record. This calls for further research to find a way to reconcile the carbon dating of the hill, which currently gives the last occupation date on the hill as 1290 AD with the physical evidence of the modern beads excavated on the hill. The results are discussed in terms of the glass production origin of the beads (Europe, Mediterranean area, India, China).