A report on a cultural heritage baseline study for the proposed exploration activities at the Jacomynspan Project, Northern Cape ProvinceSummary

Archaetnos cc was requested by GCS to conduct a cultural heritage impact assessment for a proposed prospecting application called the Jacomynspan Project. This is close to the ghost town of Putsonderwater, south of Upington in the Northern Cape Province.

The Terms of Reference for the survey were to identify objects, sites, occurrences and structures of an archaeological or historical nature (cultural heritage sites) located on the property, to study background information on the area to be developed, to assess the significance of the cultural resources in terms of their archaeological, historical, scientific, social, religious, aesthetic and tourism value and to review applicable legislative requirements.

Cultural Resources are all non-physical and physical man-made occurrences, as well as natural occurrences associated with human activity. These include all sites, structure and artifacts of importance, either individually or in groups, in the history, architecture and archaeology of human (cultural) development. Graves and cemeteries are included in this.

The significance of the sites, structures and artifacts is determined by means of their historical, social, aesthetic, technological and scientific value in relation to their uniqueness, condition of preservation and research potential. The various aspects are not mutually exclusive, and the evaluation of any site is done with reference to any number of these aspects.

Cultural significance is site-specific and relates to the content and context of the site. Sites regarded as having low cultural significance have already been recorded in full and require no further mitigation. Sites with medium cultural significance may or may not require mitigation depending on other factors such as the significance of impact on the site. Sites with a high cultural significance require further mitigation.

It has to be mentioned that it is almost impossible to locate all the cultural resources in a given area, as it will be very time consuming. Developers should however note that the report should make it clear how to handle any other finds that might occur. In this case certain patches within the surveyed area were densely vegetated which affected archaeological visibility.

The applicable legislation was also discussed. Aspects concerning the conservation of cultural resources are dealt with mainly in two acts. These are the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999) and the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998).

According to the National Heritage Resources Act the following is protected as cultural heritage resources:

a. Archaeological artifacts, structures and sites older than 100 years
b. Ethnographic art objects (e.g. prehistoric rock art) and ethnography
c. Objects of decorative and visual arts
d. Military objects, structures and sites older than 75 years
e. Historical objects, structures and sites older than 60 years
f. Proclaimed heritage sites
g. Grave yards and graves older than 60 years
h. Meteorites and fossils
i. Objects, structures and sites or scientific or technological value.

The above mentioned may only be disturbed or moved by an archaeologist, after receiving a permit from the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). In order to demolish such a site or structure, a destruction permit from SAHRA will also be needed.

Graves and burial grounds receive special protection. In terms of Section 36(3) of the National Heritage Resources Act, no person may, without a permit issued by the relevant heritage resources authority:

a. destroy, damage, alter, exhume or remove from its original position of otherwise disturb the grave of a victim of conflict, or any burial ground or part thereof which contains such graves;
b. destroy, damage, alter, exhume or remove from its original position or otherwise disturb any grave or burial ground older than 60 years which is situated outside a formal cemetery administered by a local authority; or
c. bring onto or use at a burial ground or grave referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) any excavation, or any equipment which assists in the detection or recovery of metals.

Unidentified/unknown graves are also handled as older than 60 until proven otherwise. Permission must also be gained from the descendants (where known), the National Department of Health, Provincial Department of Health, Premier of the Province and local police. Furthermore, permission must also be gained from the various landowners (i.e. where the graves are located and where they are to be relocated) before exhumation can take place.

Human remains can only be handled by a registered undertaker or an institution declared under the Human Tissues Act (Act 65 of 1983 as amended).

The National Environmental Management Act states that a survey and evaluation of cultural resources must be done in areas where development projects, that will change the face of the environment, will be undertaken. The impact of the development on these resources should be determined and proposals for the mitigation thereof are made.

For this study a survey of the available literature was undertaken in order to obtain background information regarding the area. This was followed by the field survey which was conducted according to generally accepted HIA practices, aimed at locating all possible objects, sites and features of cultural significance in the area of the proposed development.

All sites, objects features and structures identified were to be documented according to the general minimum standards accepted by the archaeological profession. Co-ordinates of individual localities were determined by means of a Global Positioning System (GPS). The information was added to photographs and the description in order to facilitate the identification of each locality.

The evaluation of Heritage sites is done by giving a field rating of each using the following criteria:

• The unique nature of a site
• The integrity of the archaeological deposit
• The wider historic, archaeological and geographic context of the site
• The location of the site in relation to other similar sites or features
• The depth of the archaeological deposit (when it can be determined or is known)
• The preservation condition of the site
• Uniqueness of the site and
• Potential to answer present research questions.

During the survey twenty-three sites of cultural heritage significance was located in the project area, with another five nearby. This gives a total of twenty-eight. A few stone tools were also found.

Since this is a baseline study more information is needed before final recommendations can be made as to the mitigation of sites that may be impacted on. It is also important to note that although some sites were found outside of the project area, these may be impacted on and therefore it is included in this report. Pending the outcome of the impact assessment and resulting mitigatory measures, the project may continue.

It should be noted however that the subterranean presence of archaeological and/or historical sites, features or artifacts is always a distinct possibility. Care should therefore be taken when the development commences that if any of these are discovered, a qualified archaeologist be called in to investigate.

Report by

Dr. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.)