A report on the rescue of previously unknown burials exposed by water erosion on the farm Langlaagte 224 IQ, Crown Mines, Crownwood road, Johannesburg


During October 2010 Archaetnos cc was approached by SAHRA’s BGG Unit, after they were alerted by Crown Gold Recoveries regarding the discovery of exposed burials (water erosion) at an old mine dump (Crown Mines) on Crownwood Road, to assist in the rescue of said remains. After various discussions with the mine and the property owners (IProp), it was decided that SAHRA will appoint Archaetnos to undertake the necessary work. A permit was issued (BG/11/01/002/86) in January 2011, and work commenced on the 24th of January. Final rescue work was stopped on the 3rd of February. The exposed burials are located on a portion of the farm Langlaagte 224 IQ, on one of the old goldmines related to Crown Mines. A total of 57 exposed burial pits (with visible human skeletal remains) and find spots with human remains, were identified. Thirty of these were investigated and removed, while the rest were covered-up for future work on the site. Last mentioned burials were only partially exposed due to the erosion. Background research, and cultural material found on the site provides a preliminary date of around the late 19th to early 20th century for the burials and site. The site (and most likely the individual buried here) is related to the early gold mining activities in Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand, and could be related to the Robinson Central Deep Gold Mining Company that operated a mine on Langlaagte during the late 19th/early 20th century.

Due to the relatively bad state of preservation of the remains because of the erosion and exposure to water and sun, forensic work on these individuals will not be possible. However, based on observations in the field and on grave goods found in some burials it is more than likely that the remains belong to individuals of African origin (migrant and other local mine workers) and are mainly adult male individuals.

Besides the number of (partially) exposed burials still present on the site, a further 120 or more clear burial pits (without visible skeletal remains) was identified, in a number of rows, covering an area of around 3100 square meters. Sand and soil heaps cover a large portion of the area, making a definite count of the total number of burials on the site impossible. Therefore, there could be many hundreds of burials present. This document represents a report on the rescue phase of the work, while recommendations regarding the further investigation and removal of the remaining burials are put forward at the end of the report. We believe that this work should be continued as soon as possible.

Report by

A. J.Pelser
A.C.van Vollenhoven