Mysterious Stone Structures

Posted on Mon May 17, 2021.

The mysterious stone structures on the Valley of the Rainbow Fly Fishing Estate and Wilderness Retreat properties

If you visit Valley of the Rainbow Fly Fishing Estate and Wilderness Retreat a visit to our archaeological sites is highly recommended.

It is only a short walk to these most interesting sites and you can ask our manager for a guided tour.

The stone circles on the property are unique as they are circular structures most likely used as cattle kraals but also squares and passages used as homes built adjacent to the kraals

Also unique to these structures located in the Steenkamp mountains are extensive stone road networks joining the settlements to one another

The estimated time when these structures were built is 800 to more than a 1000 years ago

Who were these people who built these structures?
The mystery can be solved by recent research done by Alex Schoeman and other archaeologists and since been proven by means of extensive investigations and discovery of artefacts, rock art and satellite and aerial imagery

It is now known that these people represented a lost and extinct tribe, the Bokoni or Koni people.

They were farmers, forgers of weapons and tools, miners and traders.

The smelting of iron and copper and forging of weapons and tools from iron ore and mixing this with charcoal and fluxes to get steel takes a very specialised skill set, even some form of chemistry to get the mixture right for the steel to be strong enough to be of use.

The chief of the village prized the metal-workers as the skill allowed for trade from and to other villages and even long distance to other peoples. (Serfontein, 2013)

This even included the trade in gold, where it was found.

The Bokoni also developed specialized farming methods using stone terracing for their crops and walls along roadways to prevent their livestock grazing on their crops on their way to and from pasture.

They kept cattle, goats, sheep and chickens. Their diet also consisted of some wild animals, primarily buck. (Serfontein, 2013)

It is believed that the language spoken by this tribe was known as Sekona and was closely related to Pedi, both of which were the formative languages of Sotho.

We know this from work done in the early 1800s by missionaries in the area who worked with the last remnants of the tribe before they finally dispersed. (Delius et al., 2011)

As mentioned before, trade became vital to the economy of the early tribes, including international trade in gold, ivory, rhino horn, slaves and timber.

These were traded for beads, cloth, porcelain and metal goods.

This thriving trade industry was active from before 1000 AD. This connected the east coast of Africa with India, the Persian Gulf, Thailand and China. (Delius et al., 2011)

For tribes to travel from central Africa to trade with tribes that moved down the east coast of Africa they had to transvers land the Bokoni people occupied.

A transfer trade fee could be a reason why the Pedi, Nguni, Ndebele and other tribes went to war with the Bokoni and annihilated them

It is unclear which tribes were mainly to blame for the dispersal of the erstwhile Bokoni. (Delius et al., 2011)

Due to being attacked by various tribes, the Bokoni built walls around their settlements and villages, and they were positioned on top of mountains and hills so that they could be more defensible.

Rocks could be rolled down on attackers trying to penetrate their territory from below. (Serfontein, 2013).

Jamie van Zijl is the owner of the properties and business trading as Valley of the Rainbow Fly Fishing Estate and Wilderness Retreat


Delius, P, Maggs, T. & Schoeman, A. 2014. Forgotten World: The stone-walled settlements of the Mpumalanga Escarpment, Wits University Press.

Serfontein, S. 2013. A Google Earth Survey of Bokoni Settlements in Mpumalanga, South Africa. University of Pretoria South Africa.