A historical archaeological investigation of the Gaza Gray Outpost of Steinaecker’s Horse, Lower Sabie District, Kruger National Park (Report no. V)
Steinaecker’s Horse was a voluntary unit who fought on the side of the British during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). The Gaza Gray site, situated more or less 15 km to the south-east of the Lower Sabie rest camp in the Kruger National Park, is one of a number of sites found during a survey of sites linked to the Steinaecker’s Horse military unit. Historical information indicates that the site was mainly used as a cattle outpost, where cattle, confiscated from the Boers, were kept.
The site is named after 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 this one, the nearby 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).
It is a large site consisting of four sections. The north-eastern section contains two cattle kraals/ middens and other cultural material. The northern section consists of thirteen cattle kraals/ middens and cultural remains. The southern section contains at least one structure, some refuse middens and more cultural remains. The south-eastern section has one cattle kraal/ midden as well as cultural material. Before the War the north-eastern, northern and south-eastern section was most likely used to host the cattle of Gray and some local people. As a result the site has many refuse middens in which cultural material is mixed with remains of cattle kraals. It seems as if the southern section was mostly used by the soldiers of the Steinaecker’s Horse unit. The size of the site was also determined during the field work.
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 the period before the War. The research also aimed at comparing cultural material from the site with that of other excavated Steinaecker’s Horse sites.
During the fifth excavation season, seven excavations were conducted. Together with the twenty five from the previous seasons, it means that thirty two were done in total. These concentrated on the north-eastern section of the site and the area was also scanned in order to determine the size of the site. Six of the excavations were done on cattle kraal remains/ refuse midden or the washed down remains thereof. The other one was done on an areas containing cultural material.
Human skeletal remains excavated during the first two seasons were all found in the northern section. It seems as if the indigenous people suffered from malnutrition and scurvy. This probably was a result of their dependence on maize in their diet, but in times of stress (such as war) this phenomenon is increased. No human remains were found on the southern section of the site.
One human skeleton was unearthed on the south-eastern section of the site. From the forensic analysis it seems that this individual had some kind of respiratory disease, but did not suffer from malnutrition and scurvy as the others did. This may be contributed to this section of the site being separated from the rest.
Two individuals were now found. Both had modified dentures, something that was not seen with any of the other individuals excavated. No indication of malnutrition was found, perhaps again because this section of the site is separated from the rest.
During the fifth excavation season 978 artefacts were unearthed. This is much less than during the previous seasons and is a result of the cattle kraal/ midden not containing much artefacts due to it being associated by only a few people or because of the middens being deflated.
No artefacts with a specific military origin were excavated at this section of the site, but many such material were found on the larger site, specifically the southern section. This indicate that the soldiers of Steinaecker’s Horse were mainly present here. No European ceramics and glass were found, but were excavated at other sections of the site. 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.
Just as at the northern and south-eastern sections, the north-eastern contained mostly traditional pottery and is therefore associated with local inhabitants. It has to be said however that similar pottery was also found at the southern section of the site. The non-European objects indicate that the site was inhabited by a Nguni/ Tsonga group. These people probably already stayed here before the war and it is likely that they worked for Gaza Gray and attended to his cattle. During the war they most likely continued with this task but also had to attend to cattle which were confiscated from the Boers.
European ceramic shards dating to after 1905, was also found on the southern section. It indicates that, just like at the Northernmost outpost of Steinaecker’s Horse, close to Letaba, this site was also reused after the war.
Prof. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.) Accredited member of ASAPA Accredited member of SASCH