Cultural Heritage and Landscape Management

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Verlorenkloof, South Africa


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Heritage management, Cultural identity, Environmental History, Archaeology, Landscape Conservation, Community Development, European Expansion, African Civilisations

Uncover the cultural landscapes of the Bokoni civilization with on the ground experience in heritage conservation, archaeology and landscape management. In the Highveld of Mpumalanga students will meet with different actors to learn about land reform and urban reconstruction, mining impacts on heritage areas and initiatives supporting development alongside environmental conservation.

This program explores the hidden heritage and cultural landscapes of the Bokoni civilisation that pre-dated the arrival of European settlers with on the ground experience in heritage conservation, archaeology and landscape management. It takes place in the Verlorenkloof – Mashishing area on the Drakensberg escarpment in Mpumalanga province, and focuses on early African settlements, their archaeology and landscapes; European expansion and 19th century frontier conflicts; land reform and urban reconstruction; mining impacts on heritage areas; and community initiatives for supporting development alongside conservation of their landscapes and cultural heritage.

The study trip begins from Johannesburg, and introduces you to the exciting insights of human origins and the prehistory of southern Africa. You will hear from the country’s leading archaeologists about the fossil discoveries of modern human ancestors at sites nearby and visit Maropeng and Sterkfontein caves.

As you travel from Johannesburg to Verlorenkloof, you will begin your discovery of the dispersed settlement patterns and landscapes of the Bokoni. Once you have settled into your stunning accommodation, you will learn from leading South African historians and academics, government officials, community groups and organisations and people about their work, knowledge, and experiences in heritage preservation, conservation and development. You will:

  • See ancient settlement patterns and Bokoni landscapes on the Drakensberg escarpment
  • Learn about early environmental history of Bokoni settlement in Verlorenkloof
  • Visit Mashishing and Boomplaats to see artefacts and engravings of Bokoni culture
  • Compare Bokoni terraced agriculture with current farming practices
  • Visit the Bokoni capital and those of neighbouring African kingdoms to see how they built their defences against European colonial settlers
  • Listen to how Bokoni descendants are working to preserve their cultural heritage areas
  • Learn about archaeological and historical methods used to discover Bokoni sites
  • Visit indigenous forests at abandoned sites and assess the expansion of commercial forest plantations
  • See the effects of colonial enclosure and mass removals of Africans from their land, and establishment of white settler farming
  • Talk with tenants and small-holder farmers in the area about post-apartheid land reforms community health workers involved in AIDs education and domestic violence programs
  • Discuss challenges for heritage preservation from ongoing coal mining with government officials and policy unit
  • Learn about the new mining rush in the Bushveld Igneous Complex areas near Verlorenkloof and the threats they pose to cultural heritage and landscape management

During the last two days of the field trip, you’ll discuss what you have observed and learned from visiting different places and talking to local communities, academics and stakeholders about preserving cultural heritage and conserving Bokoni landscapes.

You’ll work with others in your group to think through these issues and present back to these people some concepts for actionable programs or projects for heritage and landscape conservation in the Verlorenkloof-Mashishing area. Based on their comments and advice, you will rework your ideas into group research and project proposals after you return from the field.

Your final work will be published by RESEED as an edited book and presented back to the community-based organisations, local representatives, government agency officials, NGOs, and academics.

On the Bakoni Ruins

Although travellers may have wondered what these structures represent, few will have known – which is remarkable because they were looking at elements of one of the most extraordinary archaeological and historical phenomena in southern Africa... Not one of the structures enjoys official recognition as a heritage site. One of South Africa’s most extensive and remarkable legacies of the past is little known by the public and largely ignored by heritage authorities.


Program costs cover:
All Local transfers, entry fees, accommodation, meals and publication of research books.

Program costs do not cover:
Your university tuition fees, travel insurance, flights and/or travel before or after the trip.

Places available on trip:
20 positions

Postgraduate Students, 3rd year undergraduate students.

Free Time:

Optional safari to Kruger National Park for 2 days and 1 night at additional cost


This program consists of a three-week intensive-learning field trip with some pre-departure information sessions, seminars and preparation and post-fieldtrip assessments. It is designed to develop and expand your capabilities to understand the concepts of regional development and sustainability and translate these into policies and actionable projects.

All instruction and discussion will be conducted in English.

Study credit
To undertake this program for study credit, you will need to apply through an accrediting university. Please call us or send an enquiry form to ask for more details about this process.

The subjects are each worth 25 credit points. This represents one quarter (25%) of your full-time study load for a year. So, for example, if you are at a university where the academic year comprises two semesters of full-time study, this program would be equivalent to half the study credit points that you would be required to undertake during one semester.

Time commitment
Your total time commitment to the program is 340 hours. You’ll attend pre-departure information seminars and spend some time going over reading materials in preparation for your fieldtrip. During the days in the field, you’ll be spending between 5 to 8 contact hours each day with your academic coordinators (about 120 hours). In addition, you’ll keep a journal, do group work and individual research during your time in the field and afterwards to finish your assessments.
When we say intensive field learning, we really mean it! 

What you will gain from the program

  • Knowledge of different social dimensions and biophysical resource problems associated with sustainability
  • Familiarity with social, economic and environmental transformation occurring in the national and regional context of the study location
  • Practical skills and field-based experience for empirical research and policy formulation for creating sustainable communities and environments
  • Ability to do effective group-work
  • Ability to collaborate with local community organisations to identify problems and develop realistic solutions through mutual learning
  • Ability to individually design and develop proposals for actionable projects or further research to resolve problems identified conjointly with local communities
  • Capacity to pursue professional careers in urban planning and design, regional and international development, environmental science consulting and management, community-based conservation and sustainable enterprise creation. 

Types of Assessments
You will be required to complete different types of assessment tasks during and after the field component of the program.

Before you go into the field, you’ll be offered four or five topics that can be compared across Australia and South Africa. You’ll form a small team and choose one of these topics to research in the Australian context and put together a simple poster in electronic form. During the field trip, your team will make a short presentation of the poster to South African colleagues and program fellows. 

While you are in the field, you’ll be keeping a journal of your thoughts and reflections of the activities and discussions for each day. You’ll submit a shorter version of these daily accounts and reflections after you return from the fieldtrip.

You’ll be doing a lot of group work on the last two days of the field trip, figuring out what you saw, how to map out what you learned from different viewpoints, analyse these and identify issues that can be the focus of an actionable project. You will present these to your fellow field trip members, South African colleagues and community stakeholders, and receive feedback from them. This will be assessed by the coordinators with input from their South African counterparts 

After the field trip is over, you’ll work with the team that you’ve formed from the field workshop and develop a project proposal based on your field-based learning and desktop research. You’ll each be responsible for doing a section of the required work and for putting it together as a whole project document. You’ll be assessed on your individual contributions and also as a group for the quality, coherence and feasibility of the whole project.

Here’s a summary of all your assessment tasks.

Type of Assessment (Including Extent/Duration) Timing of Assessment Assessment %
1. A group poster presentation – 10 minutes During the fieldtrip 10%
2. A group oral presentation on the
last day of the fieldtrip – 20 minutes
During the fieldtrip 20%
3. A daily field journal – 3000 words After the fieldtrip, (usually 3-4 weeks later).

4. A post-fieldtrip project proposal
of 5000 words
After the fieldtrip, (usually a month after
you’ve submitted your field journal)



How you’ll receive your grades
After the program coordinators have assessed all your work, they will submit the grades and marks to the accrediting university. The University will check and process the grades and include these in your study records towards your degree.