This project seeks to study precolonial urban landscapes in southern Africa and thus illuminate the deep history of challenges to contemporary society. Great Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe are iconic World Heritage sites of great national and international importance, but our understanding of the economies and networks that underpinned them remains surprisingly incomplete. Even the chronological sequence of development is outdated. This makes it impossible to track socio-economic, environmental and technological contexts associated with the rise, resilience and collapse of these significant early state formations. This project will illuminate material, biological and trade exchanges occasioned by Africa’s interaction with itself, and with the outside world, using up to date science-based approaches. The outcomes will enhance understanding of national heritage and roots through education in Africa and beyond.