Socio-political developments in the Limpopo Valley are of considerable
interest to Iron Age archaeologists and some have suggested a pivotal
role for cattle within this context, especially during the Middle
Iron Age. In the past, many faunal assemblages from the region were
quantified using the Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI) only.
In this study, the Cattle Index, which measures the ratio of cattle to
sheep/goats in a faunal assemblage, is applied to archaeofauna from the
Limpopo Valley, as well as to other Iron Age samples for which
onlyMNIsare available. The resulting Cattle Indices show that wealth
was not based on cattle alone in the Limpopo Valley. Most faunal
samples from the Early and Middle Iron Ages are dominated by
sheep/goats. However, exceptions occur at KwaGandaganda, Mamba,
Bosutswe and Nqoma. During the Late Iron Age, most assemblages
are dominated by cattle. We consider potential reasons for the identified
Early and Middle Iron Age exceptions, and also for variable livestock
numbers in general.