A report on a cultural heritage impact assessment for the proposed exploration activities at the Jacomynspan Project, Northern Cape Province


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

The Heritage Impact Assessment focuses on a smaller area, where the actual development will be done. Only one site (site no. 1) will be impacted on directly. All 27 of the others are outside of this area, although three of them (sites no. 2, 11 and 12) are reasonably close to the area of direct impact and two other (sites no. 25 and 26) may be impacted on by the movement of vehicles during the development of the project.

The remainder of the sites is however also indicated in the report as it gives context to the project area. It is also important to note that although some sites were found outside of the project area.

The one site within the project development area (site 1) is of low cultural heritage significance. The field rating thereof is General Protection, Grade C (IVC). This report is seen as ample mitigation and it may therefore be demolished. Since it is older than 60 years, a permit will be required from the Northern Cape Provincial Heritage Resources Agency. However, it may also be reused for instance for offices.

Only site no. 1 (a farm yard) is within the project boundary and will be impacted on directly. It however is of a low cultural significance and may be demolished. For this purpose a permit will be needed from the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency of the Northern Cape. However, since the site is right on the edge of the development it may be possible to rather reuse it, for instance as offices.

Sites number 3, 5, 8, 9, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23 and 24 are farm yards/ buildings which include buildings older than 60 years. These buildings range from farm houses to workers houses, store rooms and wagon houses and other outbuildings. At site number 3 only an outbuilding was worth mentioning. At site 13 and 20 only workers houses were found and at site 21 a well and kraal. All these buildings and structure should rather be preserved than demolished. However none of these sites will be impacted on. The structures should therefore just be left as it is.

Site no. 11 is a farm yard close to the development. Although it may be impacted on indirectly the site is not very important and should therefore only be left as it is.

The possible LSA site (number 4) may be demolished as it does not seem to be a real important site. Again, since there will be no impact it should just be left as it is.

The following sites are ones which contains graves: 2, 6, 7, 8 (which also includes buildings), 10, 12, 15, 19, 22 and 25. As indicated above there usually are two options when dealing with graves. In cases where there will only be a secondary impact, option 1 will be applicable. This entails to leave the graves in situ. The site should be fenced in and a management plan should be written for the preservation and maintenance thereof. On none of the sites there will be a direct impact and therefore option 2, the exhumation and relocation of graves, are not recommended.

Option 1 only is applicable to site no. 2 and 12, with a possible impact on site no. 25 due to the movement of vehicles during the development.

The town of Putsonderwater (site number 26) needs to be preserved at all costs. It definitely seems that there will be a secondary impact and perhaps even a direct impact if the mine wants to utilize some of the buildings. A comprehensive phase II heritage study is therefore needed, leading to a phase III management plan for the town. This document can then be used as guide for any possible changes needed to any of the buildings and other structures in the town.

Sites number 27 and 28 are rock engraving sites. For now these should just be left as it is as there will be no impact on these.

All the heritage management plans indicated will have to be approved by SAHRA or the specific heritage office dealing with the matter at hand. SAHRA has specific guidelines for management plans and these will have to be followed.

After implementation of the recommended 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.)