A HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION OF THE
SITE OF SARDELLI’S SHOP AT GOMONDWANE, ALSO KNOWN AS AN OUTPOST OF STEINAECKER’S HORSE, CROCODILE BRIDGE DISTRICT, KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Steinaecker’s Horse was a voluntary unit who fought on the side of the British during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). The Gomondwane site, also known as Sardelli’s Shop, is one of a number of sites found during a survey of sites linked to the Steinaecker’s Horse military unit. It lies approximately 21 km south-west of the Lower Sabie rest camp and 14 km north-west of Crocodile Bridge. There also is two other sites where Sardelli had shops, namely at Sabie Poort and close to the Crocodile River.
The site was under the command of Edward George Gray who was a captain in the Steinaecker’s Horse unit. He was nicknamed ‘Gaza’ as he used to work in the Gaza district of Portuguese East Africa before the War. He was in command of three outposts of Steinaecker’s Horse namely the Gaza Gray post (the Sabie Poort shop was associated herewith), the one at Gomondwane and the one at Crocodile Bridge. After the War he became a game ranger in the Sabie Game Reserve (later Kruger Park).
Gomondwane is known as the place where the first Europeans who visited the area, the expedition of Francois de Cuiper, was attacked by indigenous people in 1725. Dimitri Sardelli used the site for a shop between 1892 and 1899 and planted some Eucalyptus trees. Some of these are still visible on site. The shop was made of corrugated iron and was used as outpost by Steinaecker’s Horse during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). Sardelli became a member of the unit.
A large wild fig tree is located on site with a cement feature to the west thereof as well as an earthen structure towards the south. In between these, cultural material is spread out over an area of about 150 m in diameter. The number of artefacts is low, probably since these are washes away when the Vurhami Spruit is in flood. Apart from the shop, Steinaecker’s Horse erected a few huts on site, but no remains of these could be identified.
The site was excavated in order to learn more about Steinaecker’s Horse, but also to distinguish between remains from this unit and cultural remains from those from the shop. The research also aimed at comparing cultural material from the site with that of other excavated Steinaecker’s Horse sites.
During the excavation season, five excavations were conducted. Two of these were on the features described above and three on other site features. A total number of 656 artefacts were uncovered – much fever in comparison with other Steinaecker’s Horse sites. This likely is due to cultural material being removed from site as it was still usable or since it may have been washed away.
No artefacts with a specific military origin were excavated here. Such artefacts would undoubtedly corroborate that the soldiers of Steinaecker’s Horse were present here. A few European ceramics as well as European glass objects were found. These objects does date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and are similar to those found on other sites associated with Steinaecker’s Horse. Only one non-European artefact, a potshard, was found. It indicates contact with local people who may have been used as servants by both Sardelli and the soldiers.
Anton C. van Vollenhoven BA, BA (Hons) Archaeology, DTO, NDM, MA (UP) Archaeology, MA (US) Cultural History, DPhil (UP) Archaeology, Man Dip (TUT), DPhil (US) History, L AKAD (SA)