A historical archaeological investigation of the Gaza Gray outpost of Steinaecker’s Horse, Lower Sabie District, Kruger National Park (Report no. III)
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 the Gaza district of 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 of other excavated Steinaecker’s Horse sites.
During the third excavation season, six excavations, of which two were already started during the previous season, were done. Together with the fifteen from the previous seasons, it means that nineteen were done in total (excavation 10 and 13 were done over two seasons). 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 the excavations 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.
Human skeletal remains excavated during the previous two seasons were all found in the northern section. 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.
During the third excavation season more than 4 800 artefacts were unearthed. This is less than during the previous seasons and is a result of some of the excavations being partially excavated during the previous season.
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. It seems as if the stone structure, which was completely exposed, could be a platform with something like a wooden shed constructed on top thereof.
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.
European ceramic shards dating to after 1905, was also found. It indicates that, just like at the Northernmost outpost of Steinaecker’s Horse, close to Letaba, this site was also reused after the war.
Dr. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.)