FINAL REPORT ON A PHASE II ARCHAEOLOGICAL MITIGATION OF STONE AGE ARTEFACTS AT STONE AGE SITE NUMBER 1, BLACK ROCK MINING OPERATIONS, NORTHERN CAPE PROVINCE
Archaetnos cc has done various studies at the at the Black Rock Mining Operations (BMRO) and the wider Hotazel area since 2010. BRMO is situated in the Northern Cape Province approximately 80 km north-west of the town of Kuruman and 12 kilometres north-west of Hotazel.
One of the studies done by Archaetnos was the re-assessment of known Stone Age sites identified along the Gamagara River. During this study, done in 2019, some of the 15 Stone Age sites were combined due to its closeness to each other and some were scrapped as it did not seem to exist anymore (for instance in one case merely a few stone tools were initially identified, next to a road which has now been widened). In the end 9 sites remained.
The recommendations made in the Phase I report included that a permit be obtained from SAHRA for the collection of a representative sample of Stone Age material from Site 1, since it is being threatened by soil washing over it, originating from a rehabilitated area at the mine. This mitigation was approved, and this report serve as final Phase II mitigation report to SAHRA.
The Terms of Reference for the study were to:
- Getting an indication of the extent of the lithic site, known as site number 1.
- Collecting a representative sample of stone tools on this site.
- Using the collected artefacts to determine the age thereof and the Stone Age technology they belong to.
- Determining the density of the archaeological deposits.
- Commenting on the cultural significance of the site.
- Have the artefacts properly curated by a recognized institution, in this case the University of Pretoria.
- Making recommendations as to the possible use of artefacts for museological and educational purposes at the mine.
Sampling was done as follows:
- The perimeters of the site was located by determining the furthest extent of artefacts on site (Figure 8-10).
- Making use of a 1 x 1 m in order to sample within the grid. Six of these grids were laid out and sampled.
- Random sampling of (surface collection) of additional artefacts.
- Documentation of the entire process by photographs, maps and descriptions.
Dr Tim Forssman of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Pretoria, who is accredited as a Principal Investigator (PI) for the Stone Age, did the detailed analyses and photographic documentation of the sampled stone tools. He was assisted by Dr Matt Lotter from the Palaeo-Research Institute, University of Johannesburg.
A full discussion is provided in Appendix A which is the lithic analysis by Stone Age specialists. In short it can be mentioned that stone tools from all three periods of the Stone Age – Early, Middle and Later were identified at the BRMO Project Area. At Site no. 1, however only Middle and Later Stone Age artefacts were identified.
It is important to note that the assemblage may not be representative of the site’s original (and complete) assemblage. It is also possible that the site had spatial zones that eroded into distinct areas, meaning that certain elements of the assemblage may have come to rest in different locations beyond the survey area. These however remains speculations as the available evidence does not allow more comprehensive conclusions. It is also difficult to establish a suitable chronology for the site, and one can only rely on broad typological comparisons of the artefacts with other published and dated assemblage descriptions from across the country.
The results of the study indicate that the sample of lithics obtained from the survey area is small and that it reflects the conditions of preservation, namely long-term surface exposure leading to the exterior modification of artefacts. Resultingly the overall preservation conditions are poor and the assemblage is likely heavily modified, incomplete, and is a palimpsest. Typologically, the artefact sample comprises debitage, cores and formal tools, but the majority of these are non-diagnostic, therefore making it difficult to establish a reliable chronology. By looking at broader technological trends in the southern African Stone Age, this material likely falls sometime within the Middle and Later Stone Age.
It should be indicated that since no primary context for these stone tools were identified, the developer should still be on the lookout so as to ensure that such a primary location is not disturbed. Since the subterranean presence of archaeological and/or historical sites, features or artifacts are always a distinct possibility, care should still be taken and, if any more artifacts are uncovered, a qualified archaeologist should be called in to investigate. Of course, a primary find would be of significance and will need further investigation whereas others would not.
It should also be noted that the recommendations from the previous report (Van Vollenhoven 2019) is still valid. The BRMO should therefore still adhere to the comments given in this regard by SAHRA. The most important of these is that no development should be allowed within a 100 m buffer on both sides of the Gamagara River, measured from the centre of the river.
Although the artefacts will be curated by the University of Pretoria, it could be allowed that it be housed at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, which serves as repository for archaeological material in the Northern Cape Province. Whatever the case may be, the mine can be allowed to open a museum in which these artefacts are displayed, under condition that it is properly displayed, interpreted and curated.
Prof. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.) Accredited member of ASAPA Accredited member of SASCH