The Mapungubwe National Park has numerous archaeological sites dating from Early Stone Age (1 million to 250 000 years ago) to the present, and is considered to be the most remarkable Iron Age site in South Africa.
Situated on the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers (where the borders of Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa meet), the artefacts found at Mapungubwe rank amongst the most important pieces of art yet found in sub-Saharan Africa. They document the rise of the Zimbabwe culture, which was one of the most complex social and political entities in Africa during the 8th and 9th centuries. The culture, based partly on gold and ivory trade with Arab traders, is believed to have had its origins in the Limpopo Valley and subsequently spread northwards into Zimbabwe. Finds of gold artefacts (the most well-known a gold rhino), beads, burial grounds and other remains indicate that Mapungubwe was one of the major centres of this culture and bear testimony to the way of life of African peoples more than a thousand years ago. After 1200 AD Great Zimbabwe succeeded Mapungubwe as the inland trade capital.
The National Park was proclaimed a World Heritage Site on 5 July 2003, and is referred to as the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (because Mapungubwe was already a national heritage site). The park is the centrepiece of a proposed Trans Frontier Conservation Area of 800 000 ha that would incorporate Botswana and Zimbabwe.