A report on the archaeological investigation of a grave yard on the farm Welstand 55 IS, impacted on by the Total Coal Dorstfontein Mine near Kriel, Mpumalanga Province


Archaetnos cc was requested by TOTAL COAL SOUTH AFRICA (PTY) LIMITED
to carry out the archaeological investigation and exhumation of a number of graves older as 60 years as well as of unknown graves located on the farm Welstand 55 IS near Kriel in Mpumalanga. This is on a property where the expansion of coal mining at the Dorstfontein mine is planned.

A survey was conducted in the area by Dr Julius Pistorius in 2008. Additional surveys were done by Archaetnos cc later during the same year and early in 2010. It indicated various grave sites on the property of which some have been exhumed during 2009. Another site identified during 2010 (site no 10) included graves with an unknown date. As the site is in the way of the proposed mining activities, it was recommended that the graves be exhumed and relocated. For this purpose a permit (BG/08/12/001/87) was obtained from the Burial Unit of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA).

The project was conducted in conjunction with African Grave Relocation Specialists (AGRS). They also did the necessary social consultation which was needed in order to obtain permission from the families of the deceased.

The archaeological investigations at the site commenced during July 2009. Thirty one graves were exhumed by the archaeologist. Of these only twelve contained skeletal remains, while nine others had no associations in the grave. The rest all had remains of coffin wood, corrugated iron sheeting, pieces of plastic, clothing and various other minor associations. Soil samples were taken from the burials that contained no remains, and these were reburied.

It is believed that the archaeological investigation, exhumation and relocation of the graves from the site were conducted successfully and that the mining operations in the area can continue.

Report by

Dr. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD. S.A.) & Anton J. Pelser