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


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 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 two cattle kraals/ middens 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 excavated other Steinaecker’s Horse sites.

During the second excavation season, seven excavations were done. Together with the eight from the previous season, it means that fifteen were done in total. These concentrated on the southern section of the site and the area was also scanned in order to determine the size of the site. Five of these were done on refuse middens or the washed down remains thereof. One was done on a heap of stones which may be the remains of a building or other structure. The last one was done at the northern section of the site, where the remains of a human skeleton were washed open. It was removed as it would be unethical to leave it exposed.

The human remains were complete and that of a male individuals. 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.

Apart from the human skeletal and fauna material found, more than 10 0000 artefacts were unearthed during the excavations. This is normal as many cultural objects are usually found on refuse middens.

A few artefacts with a specific military origin were excavated. These were all found on the southern section of the site and indicate that the soldiers of Steinaecker’s Horse were mainly present here. 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. The precise nature and use of the structure, which was only partially exposed, could not be determined yet and will receive further attention during a next excavation season.

The northern section 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.

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, L AKAD (SA) and Anton J. Pelser BA (Unisa), BA (Hons) Archaeology, MA (UWits) Archaeology