Programme 2017
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Note Branch phone number: 072 349 6507


Northern Branch: Confirmed Events



21 Sept:
Ancient fortificated settlements: Frobenius at Mapungubwe, 1928 Lecture by Justine Wintjes

27 Sept – 10 Oct:
Overseas tour to Ethiopia Led by Reinoud Boers

26 Oct:
Face to face with the Philistines Lecture by Ruby-Anne Birin

16 Nov:
Experiences in Anatolia, Mesopotamia and eastern Turkey Lecture by Reinoud Boers

26 Nov:
Walter Sisulu Botanic Gardens Geological outing with Professor Morris Viljoen

BOOKING CONDITIONS FOR OUTINGS: There is a cut-off date for bookings one week before the outing. Only participants who have been confirmed by phone, SMS or e-mail may participate in the outing. In addition, the outing costs must be pre-paid. No pets are allowed on outings as we usually visit private properties.

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Ancient fortificated settlements: Frobenius at Mapungubwe, 1928
Justine Wintjes

Date: Thursday 21 September at 20:00
Venue: The auditorium, Roedean School, 35 Princess of Wales Terrace, Parktown
Charge: Members free; Non-members R30


A local farmer by the name of Van Graan and his son visited Mapungubwe for the first time in 1932. In the following year they brought the site to the attention of Leo Fouche, professor of History at the University of Pretoria. But Mapungubwe was not as remote and unknown as the romanticised narrative in Fouche’s book implies. Several published and archival references indicate that one Bernard Francois (Frans) Lotrie knew it well. Lotrie apparently lived a hermit’s life in a cave near Mapungubwe Hill in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Lotrie’s grandson, Berend Lottering, appears to have guided paying visitors to the site. In this talk, Justine Wintjes investigates the Lotrie/Lottering relationship to Mapungubwe. She also examines the archival evidence of early place-names for an older, now-forgotten knowledge of the Mapungubwe landscape that potentially connects historical memory to archaeological results.

Dr Wintjes lectures in the School of Arts at Wits. One of her main interests is the intersection between art and archaeology. She has a Masters in fine art from La Cambre in Brussels, a Masters in archaeological science from Leiden University and a PhD in art history from Wits. Her doctoral thesis was on the production of knowledge of rock art and she is currently working on visual material collected by the Leo Frobenius ethnographic expedition to southern Africa from 1928 to 1930.

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Face to face with the Philistines: the excavation of the first known Iron Age, Philistine cemetery, Ashkelon, Israel 2014–2016
Ruby-Anne Birin

Date: Thursday 26 October at 20:00
Venue: The auditorium, Roedean School, 35 Princess of Wales Terrace, Parktown
Charge: Members free; Non-members R30


From early mentions as ‘Sea Peoples’ in Egyptian hieroglyphs, references in biblical texts and their ultimate demise at the hands of the Babylonians, the story of the ancient Philistines has traditionally been told by their neighbours and enemies. The discovery of a Philistine cemetery in Ashkelon in 2014 now allows the dead to tell their own stories. Located outside the city walls, the finds at the cemetery dispel myths such as their legendary tallness and uncouth behaviour. Ruby-Anne Birin will recount her personal experiences while excavating the cemetery in the 2015 and 2016 excavation seasons and consider some of the conclusions and research that has been published subsequent to this remarkable discovery.

Ruby-Anne Birin is an archaeology honours student at Wits University. In 2015 she joined the Harvard Summer school at Ashkelon and excavated in the first full season of digging at the Philistine cemetery. The excavation continued in 2016 and she participated as a volunteer.

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Experiences in Anatolia, Mesopotamia and eastern Turkey
Reinoud Boers

Date: Thursday 16 November at 20:00
Venue: The auditorium, Roedean School, 35 Princess of Wales Terrace, Parktown
Charge: Members free; Non-members R30


In September last year, 26 ArchSoc members visited the cradle of human development where ancient trade routes criss-cross each other and cultures followed in rapid succession, leaving behind an unbelievable archaeological legacy. This is Anatolia and the upper Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and the Euphrates in south-eastern Turkey. Highlights of the tour were the 8 000-year-old proto-city settlement of Catalhöyük and the wondrous sacred complex of Göbekli Tepe that predates the start of agriculture. But there was also the archaeological museum of Zeugma and the Roman city remains themselves, the Edesa Mosaic Museum, the colossi of the gods of antiquity on Mount Nemrut, the Neolithic settlement of Çayönü, the Roman Silk Road stronghold of Hasakeyf, the 3 000-year-old Urartian citadels near Van, and the 800-year-old site of the Armenian city of Ani near Kars.

Cappadocia, the remains of the Kommagene kingdom, colourful Sanliurfa (former Edessa), the medieval city of Diyarbakir, ancient churches and monasteries, the beautiful Ishak Pasha Palace and ancient rock engravings all added to a kaleidoscope of experiences. The Syrian and Iraq borders were often not far away, nor Turkey’s troubles with its Kurdish population, which added spice to the tour. Reinoud’s illustrated talk will look at the many aspects of the group’s experiences.

Reinoud is a professional editor, bookshop owner and organises the Northern Branch’s longer tours both locally and internationally. He has served as chairman of the Northern Branch several times and was vice-president of the SA Archaeological Society from 2012 to 2014.

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Geology and Geotrail at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
Outing led by Morris Viljoen

Date: Sunday 26 November 2017
Time: 9:30 for 10:00
Meeting Place:Entrance, Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, Malcolm Rd, Poortview, Roodepoort (tel. 086 100 1278)
Charge: Members: R230; Non-members: R260
Included: Entrance fee and buffet lunch. Drinks for own account.
Bring: Walking shoes, hat, sun lotion, water
Booking essential: Phone Anita Arnott at 011 795 4056 nearer the time. Please advise if you are a Botanical Society member and if you are a vegetarian.


Our year-end outing will be to the 300 hectare botanical reserve of the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Roodepoort. Here Morris Viljoen will explain South Africa’s geology in the Geological Garden and along the first section of the Geotrail along Witpoortjie Falls. Subsequently, we will meet on the wooden deck of Eagles’ Fare Restaurant for a buffet lunch comprising five starters, a range of salads, three main courses (fish, chicken and meat), five desserts and coffee/tea.

In the Geological Garden, a selection of large rock specimens representing some of the major geological formations of South Africa identified by interpretive plaques are laid out in chronological order. We will follow the trail that starts with some of the oldest volcanic rocks (ultra-high temperature primitive magnesium-rich komatiites dated at 35 billion years) on which the lower main botanical garden below Witpoortjie Falls is situated. We continue past specimens of Witwatersrand rocks that include magnetic shales occurring in the lowermost strata, typical Witwatersrand auriferous conglomerate and overlying amygdaloidal Ventersdorp lava from the Klipriversberg hills south of Johannesburg. Other specimens to be discussed include dolomite and rocks from the Bushveld Igneous Complex, Karoo rocks and kimberlites (the host rock to primary diamond deposits). Many of the specimens have polished ‘surface windows’ to reveal their colour and texture.

Our tour will be followed by a walk along the geological trail that continues to the falls and the top of the falls to the Orange Grove quartzite ridge that forms the scarp face of the falls and the northern edge of the Witwatersrand Plateau. There is a good chance of spotting Black Eagles nesting on the cliff face of the waterfall. Return via the same path and continue to Eagles’ Fare. Keen walkers may continue along the circular path for a pleasant Highveld walk of an hour or so and join the group at the restaurant thereafter.

Morris Viljoen is emeritus professor of geology at Wits University. He was and still is involved in mineral exploration and mining, but has always had an interest in geo-heritage promotion for education and tourism. He has published numerous books and chapters in books, the latest being in the recently published Africa’s Top Geological Sites. He has led geologically oriented excursions for and presented talks to ArchSoc for many years.

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