A report on a phase II archaeological mitigation of stone age sites at the proposed Sasol CSP and CPV project near Upington in the Northern Cape Province


Archaetnos cc was appointed by WSP Environment and Energy to conduct a cultural
heritage study for the proposed SASOL CSP Project during May 2012. This is
situated on the farm Van Roois Vley close to Upington in the Northern Cape
Province. The project entails the erection of concentrated solar panels for the
generation of electricity.

During the Phase I survey 34 sites of historical and archaeological importance was
identified. These consist of one site from the Historical Age and 33 Stone Age
occurrences. A nearby historical site (the Rebellion tree) and another Stone Age site
(rock peckings) were also identified although outside of the area to be affected.

The recommendations made in the phase I report included that a permit be obtained
from SAHRA for the collection of a representative sample of Stone Age material from
Van Roois Vley, prior to commencement of the development. A report on the
findings after analyses of the collected Stone Age material also should be presented

This report deals with the Phase II study done by Archaetnos, whit the assistance of
a Principal Investigator for Stone Age, Karen van Ryneveld from Archaeomaps. A
permit was issued by SAHRA for this purpose, with CaseID: 2091.

The Terms of Reference for the survey were to:

1. Getting an indication of the extent of selected lithic sites identified in the
project are.
2. Collecting a representative sample of stone tools on selected sites identified
during the project.
3. Using the collected artefacts to determine the age thereof and the Stone Age
technology they belong to.
4. Determining the density of the archaeological deposits.
5. Have the artefacts properly curated by a recognized institution, in this case the
McGregor Museum in Kimberley.

Of the 33 sites where stone tools were identified, it was decided to sample 11. Since
the lithic tools were spread out over a large area per site, this was basi cally random
sampling namely on sites VRV-5, VRV-9, VRV-16, VRV-18, VRV-27, VRV-29 and
VRV-30. At sites VRV-31 and VRV-32 shovel test pits (STP’s) were also done while
at sites VRV-15 and VRV-33 a 1 x 1 m grid was placed in order to sample within the
grid. The lithic tools were also mapped in situ while in the field.

In short it can be mentioned that stone tools from all three periods of the Stone Age
– Early, Middle and Late were identified. The ESA is present at Van Roois Vley,
namely at site VRV-16. Site VRV-27 is the only site where only MSA types were
collected. All other sites, including ESA Site VRV-16, yielded an LSA admixture to
the collection. At Site VRV-27 and all ‘mixed’ sites MSA types dominate the
collections by far.

The LSA component to the collections comprise primarily of macrolithic LSA
samples, indicative of an evolving technology, practiced on similar raw material types
with little exploration of new raw materials that allowed a more refined technology
and by implication significant change in typology. Low sample LSA representation
does not allow for a more in depth interpretation.

In general, from a technological point of view, artefacts remain crude with many a
sample more indicative of amorphous, informal types resulting in analysis results that
may appear to be representative of assemblages comprising the expected collection
components, when in fact it doesn’t. At the Van Roois Vley collections sub-standard
technology seems to have inevitably resulted in poor typology.

Almost half of the artefacts have prepared platforms, an important MSA
technological indicator. This shows a notably more advanced technological and
typological standard. Provenance and context may explain the absence of the
expected micro ‘debitage’ components from the deposits. All the collection localities
are situated in or close to shallow, dry riverbeds with deposits having been exposed
to water disturbance. It can reasonably be inferred that the micro ‘debitage’ have
simply been washed away.

Low artefact density coined with secondary contexts poses further questions
pertaining to the origin of the deposits: On one hand it can be inferred that the
deposits represent the disturbed remainders of assemblages originally deposited at
the locales. However, the possibility that these low density deposits are, at least in
part, the result of water transport cannot be excluded. The rivers all seem to flow
more or less from the north-east where low hills are to be found, outside of the
project area. It is possible that these artefacts originated from these hills.

It is concluded that the Phase II archaeological mitigation of Stone Age sites at Van
Roois Vley was completed successfully. The collected archaeological material will
be deposited and curated by the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, since this is the
repository for the Northern Cape.

Since no primary context for these stone tools were identified, the developer should
still be on the lookout when construction work on site commence to ensure that such
a primary location is not disturbed. Since the subterranean presence of
archaeological and/or historical sites, features or artifacts are always a distinct
possibility, care should be taken when work commences that, if any more artifacts
are uncovered, a qualified archaeologist be called in to investigate. This basically
means stopping al work at that specific point and getting advice from an
archaeologist before any work may proceed. Of course a primary find would be of
significance and will need further investigation.

Finally it can be stated that the work on site may commence and the sites, as
indicated in this and in the Phase I report may be destroyed. A destruction permit, to
be issued by SAHRA, may be applied for.

Report by

Dr. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L. Akad. S.A.) Accredited member of ASAPA Professional member of SASCH Assisted as PI by: Karen van Ryneveld Archaeomaps Archaeological Consultancy