A report on a cultural heritage impact assessment for the proposed upgrade of existing water supply infrastructure at Noupoort, Northern Cape Province


Archaetnos cc was requested by WSP Environmental (Pty) Ltd to conduct a culturalheritage impact assessment for the upgrade of existing water supply infrastructure at the town of Noupoort. This falls under jurisdiction of the Umsobomvu Municipality in the Northern Cape Province.

The project involves the upgrading of the existing Noupoort bulk water supply network and installing fibre optic communication network as part of the required maintenance to the water supply network. The proposed upgrade will include the construction of approximately 20 km of various sizes of uPVC pipelines, valve chambers, fibre optic sleeves, draw boxes, pump stations, boreholes and refurbishment of two collection reservoirs.

The basic Terms of Reference for the survey were to:

1. Identify objects, sites, occurrences and structures of an archaeological or historical nature (cultural heritage sites) along the pipe line routes;

2. Assess the significance of the cultural resources in terms of their archaeological, historical, scientific, social, religious, aesthetic and tourism value;

3. Describe the possible impact of the proposed development on these cultural remains, according to a standard set of conventions;

4. Recommend suitable mitigation measures to minimize possible negative impacts on the cultural resources by the proposed development; and

5. 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.

Aspects concerning the conservation of cultural resources are dealt with mainly in two acts. These are the National Heritage Resources Act (Act No. 25 of 1999) and the National Environmental Management Act (Act No. 107 of 1998).

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; and

i. Objects, structures and sites or scientific or technological value.


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

If required, the location/position of any site was determined by means of a Global Positioning System (GPS), while photographs were also taken where needed. If applicable, people from local communities are interviewed in order to obtain information relating to the surveyed area.

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.


Four sections of lines were surveyed. These are called Central, South-east, South-west and Northern sections. The general environmental characteristics of the different proposed routes are more or less the same.

In general the topography of the area is reasonably flat. The exception however is a small mountain to the southwest of the town, where a few existing water reservoirs are situated. The Noupoort Spruit and some of its tributaries also run through the surveyed area resulting in a drop in relief close thereto.

The vegetation in the surveyed area mostly consists of low grass and shrubs, with many patches of soil in-between. In most cases the under footing is reasonably open with a few areas where it is more dense. Accordingly the archaeological visibility was quite good. Signs of disturbance of the environment were clear in most of the surveyed areas. This included current agricultural fields and old fields. The different proposed routes however mostly follow existing roads, railway tracks and pipe lines and therefore are planned in existing disturbed areas. The latter includes the roads inside of the town as a large section of the proposed routes runs through the town.

The survey of the indicated area was completed successfully. Only one site of cultural heritage importance was identified. This is the remains of a very large graveyard containing at least 1200 graves. Although there are no no-go areas, the area where the grave yard was identified is extremely sensitive and should be handled in accordance with this report.

Due to the sensitivity of this issue, graves are always regarded as having a highcultural significance. These graves are of a local significance and are therefore given a field rating of Grade IIIB. It may therefore be mitigated.

There are two options when dealing with graves. The first would be to fence it in and write a management plan for the preservation thereof. This option will come into play if there is no direct impact on the graves.

The second option is to have the graves exhumed and the bodies reburied. This option is preferred when graves cannot be avoided by the development. In order for exhumation to be allowed by SAHRA, an additional motivation would be needed.

However, in this case it would be possible to move the pipeline to an adjacent road. These were also surveyed and have no heritage significance.

The following is recommended:

 The pipeline should be moved to any one of the roads running parallel and adjacent to the one in which it is currently planned. The client indicated that this would indeed be possible.

 Should this not be possible, option 1 is recommended.

 It also needs to be stated that the site is not in a good condition and this needs to be rectified. Erecting a fence around it only is a first step in this process.

 A conservation management plan for the sustainable preservation and management of the grave yard should be drafted by a heritage expert and implemented by the municipality.

 After implementation of the proposed mitigation measures, the proposed development may continue.

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

Report by

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