A historical archaeological investigation of the
Gaza Gray outpost of Steinaecker’s Horse, Lower Sabie District, Kruger National Park (Report no. I)


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 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 more than 10 middens. Before the War it also 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. During the field work the size of the site was determined and the nearby site, where Bill Sanderson was interned by Steinaecker’s Horse during the Anglo-Boer War, was 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 the period before the War. The research also aimed at comparing cultural material from the site with that excavated other Steinaecker’s Horse sites.

During the first excavation season, eight excavations were done. These concentrated on the western side of the site and the area was also scanned in order to determine the size of the site. Six of these were done on middens of which all proved to be the remains of cattle kraals. However, some of these were also used as refuse middens. One was done on an area where historical artefacts were in abundance (ceramics and glass). This was a refuse midden and seems to indicate the border of the area on site which can be associated with the white soldiers of Steinaecker’s Horse. The eighth excavation was done on another midden area which produced potshards, bone material and glass beads. It seems as if this could have been one of the huts used by the local indigenous people who associated with Steinaecker’s Horse.

Human remains were found at three of the cattle kraal excavations. It consisted of three complete skeletons and the partial remains of two more individuals. It seems as if these were indigenous people who 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.

Apart from the human skeletal and fauna material found, more than 3600 artefacts were unearthed during the excavations. This is normal as many cultural objects are usually found on refuse middens.

No artefacts with a specific military origin were identified. This is because the excavations did not concentrate on the south-eastern part of the site which probably is associated with the soldiers. European ceramics and glass found does however date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and are similar to those found on other sites associated with Steinaecker’s Horse. These aspects therefore need to be investigated further.

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.

Report by

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
Anton J. Pelser BA (Unisa), BA (Hons) Archaeology, MA (UWits) Archaeology