Identifying anthropogenic features at Seoke (Botswana) using pXRF: Expanding the record of southern African Stone Walled Sites

Stefano Biagetti, Jonas Alcaina-Mateos, Abel Ruiz-Giralt, Carla Lancelotti, Patricia Groenewald, Jordi Ibañez-Insa, Shira Gur-Arie, Fred Morton, Stefania Merlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous and extensive ‘Stone Walled Sites’ have been identified in southern African Iron Age landscapes. Appearing from around 1200 CE, and showing considerable variability in size and form, these settlements are named after the dry-stone wall structures that characterize them. Stone Walled Sites were occupied by various Bantu-speaking agropastoral communities. In this paper we test the use of pXRF (portable X-ray fluorescence analysis) to generate a ‘supplementary’ archaeological record where evident stratigraphy is lacking, survey conditions may be uneven, and excavations limited, due to the overall site size. We propose herein the application of portable X-ray fluorescence analysis (pXRF) coupled with multivariate exploratory analysis and geostatistical modelling at Seoke, a southern African SWS of historical age (18th century CE). The aim of the paper is twofold: to explore the potential of the application of a low cost, quick, and minimally invasive technique to detect chemical markers in anthropogenic sediments from a Stone Walled Site, and to propose a way to analyse the results in order to improve our understanding of the use of space at non-generalized scales in such sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0250776
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Biagetti et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Archaeology/instrumentation
  • Botswana
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Humans
  • Spectrometry, X-Ray Emission/instrumentation
  • Time Factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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