A historical archaeological investigation of the site of Sardelli’s Shop at Sabiepoort, also known as the site where Bill Sanderson was interned, Lower Sabie District, Kruger National ParkSummary

Steinaecker’s Horse was a voluntary unit who fought on the side of the British during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). The site of Sardelli’s Shop, situated more or less 7 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 used by the soldiers to intern Bill Sanderson. There also is two other sites where Sardelli had shops, namely at Gomondwane and close to the Crocodile River.
The site was under the command of 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 the nearby Gaza Gray post (this shop of Sardelli was likely associated herewith), the 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).
The Gaza Gray site is relatively large and consist of four sections, but the site of Sardelli’s Shop can perhaps be added as a fifth section. It is only about 2,5 km north-west of the main section of the Gaza Gray site. The latter is a large site containing various cattle kraals/ middens and which stretches over a kilometre in diameter. Gray and other local inhabitants kept cattle here even before the War. It seems as if the southern section was mostly used by the soldiers of the Steinaecker’s Horse unit.
The site of Sardelli’s Shop has a diameter of approximately 220 m and contains the remains of the shop and at least two refuse middens as well as cultural material spread over the area. It seems that local people also stayed here en that the likely was the same group who were present on the Gaza Gray site. Sardelli thus associated with them.
Historical information indicates that Steinaecker’s Horse used the shop to intern Bill Sanderson. Dimitri Sardelli was a member of the Steinaecker’s Horse unit.
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 and those from the shop. The research also aimed at comparing cultural material from the site with that of other excavated Steinaecker’s Horse sites.
During the excavation season, five excavations were conducted. Three of these were on the remains of the shop and two at refuse middens. A total number of 1868 artefacts were uncovered. This is a reasonably large number for such a small site, but nevertheless more than what was excavated during the 2015 season on the Gaza Gray site. Most of these came from the middens, meaning that those from the shop were relatively few. This likely is due to cultural material being removed from site as it was still usable or since it may have been washed away as the site is located at the confluence of two rovers.
No artefacts with a specific military origin were excavated here, but many such material were found at the Gaza Gray site. Such artefacts would undoubtedly corroborate that the soldiers of Steinaecker’s Horse were present here. No European ceramics and relatively few European glass objects were found. These objects does date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and are similar to those found on other sites associated with Steinaecker’s Horse.
Non-European artefacts, mainly traditional) pottery, were also found. These are similar to what was excavated at the Gaza Gray site and 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.
Since Sardelli joined Steinaecker’s Horse, the shop was likely vacated during the War. Except for the period when Sanderson was jailed there, it may have been used as extension of the Gaza Gray outpost. A few cultural objects dating to after the War, 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.

Report by

Prof. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.) Accredited member of ASAPA Accredited member of SASCH