This paper presents direct dating evidence for the manufacture of some of the gold artefacts from the Iron Age archaeological site of Mapungubwe Hill (South Africa). The results confirm that the artefacts are contemporaneous with the occupation of the site and are the product of a mature indigenous metalworking tradition. The Mapungubwe Hill gold artefacts were manufactured at a time when a substantial reorganisation of society led to the separation of royals and commoners and a change in the role of cattle as a form of wealth. These changes are clearly manifest in the use of gold. Whereas gold had previously been traded with the East coast, it became symbolic of power, wealth and status at Mapungubwe Hill.