Environment and Culture: A Study of Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe
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There is always a symbiotic relationship between the physical environment and cultural behaviour of a society. The physical environment provides resources and options for subsistence, raw materials for economic development, landforms and landscapes that may later be imbued with iconic, associative, symbolic or religious values. Understanding the environmental conditions in particular cultural landscapes at particular periods may explain aspects of cultural behaviour of communities, especially settlement locations. This research is an investigation of the nature of the prehistoric culture-environment relationship in Zimunya, in the central part of the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. The eastern highlands form a distinct physiographic region of Zimbabwe, and should have required or led to particular technological and cultural adaptations of the prehistoric communities that lived in it throughout the ages. The results of this investigation show that there are patterns in the distribution of the archaeological settlements in the research area. A statistical investigation of the sites indicates that some of them are associated with particular aspects of the physical environment. Stone Age settlement sites are found on the hills that dot the gently undulating plains and along river valleys of the research area. They are also in close proximity to quartz outcrops, the quartz of which was apparently exploited as raw material for tool manufacturing. Sites of the farming communities occur in various situations, although sites with pit structures are located on the northern slopes of the upland areas of the Vumba mountains. Although sociological factors could have been significant, the detected patterns appear to be the result of the influence of the physical attributes of the landscape such as topography, proximity to water sources and climatic conditions.