Archaeological research at Gaza Gray outpost of Steinaeckers Horse in Kruger



Archaeologists dug up skeletal remains during annual excavation in the Kruger National Park


Archaeologist Dr Anton van Vollenhoven says that an estimate of 2 000 artefacts have been found in the 2014 excavation at the Gaza Gray Outpost in Steinaecker's Horse. Among the unique findings were skeletal remains, beads made from ostrich eggs, and clay shard.

The first archaeological excursion of the Gaza Gray Outpost took place during the first two weeks of August 2010. The project was led by historical archaeologist, Dr. Anton van Vollenhoven with the help of his research team at the research department of Archaetnos Archaeologists.

The aim of the Archaetnos Research Department is to do archaeological and historical research. The Steinaecker's Horse project is now running in its seventeenth year. South African National Parks (SANParks) doesn't fund the project, but they assist in some of the logistical matters relating to such research.

The project that was launched in 1997 started its new phase in 2011, after the previous phase ended in 2010. The first phase concentrated on the most Northern outpost of the military unit, close to Letaba rest camp. After that the post at Sabi Bridge (Skukuza) and a camp at Ngotso mouth were excavated.

The focus now shifts to the Gaza Gray site. This site is situated more or less 15 kilometer to the south of the Lower Sabie rest camp and the Sabie River.

Steinaecker's Horse was a military unit who fought on the side of the British during the Anglo-Boer-War (1899 1902). The unit consisted of local inhabitants from the Lowveld-region, including the indigenous people who worked as soldiers, servants and chefs. The unit's most important task was to ensure that the Boers did not make contact with Portuguese supporters in Mozambique, in order to arrange for food and war supplies.

Very little research has been done about the Anglo-Boer-War, from an archaeological perspective. This project highlights that period and creates the opportunity to do research on the involvement of the indigenous people during the war, an area that did not receive much attention during the past years from researchers. This is especially true of the Gaza Gray outpost.

Apart from being a very large site it used to host the cattle of Gray and some local people before the War. During the War it was used by Steinaecker's Horse to keep the cattle that they confiscated from local people and some of the farmers such as Abel Erasmus. As a result the site has many refuse middens in which cultural material is mixed with remains of cattle kraals. Some of these were excavated in 2010, but since have been explored to find any other possible remains.

The site is named after Edward George Gray who was a captain in the Steinaecker's Horse unit. He was nicknamed Gaza as he used to work in Portuguese East Africa before the War. He was in command of three outposts of Steinaecker's Horse namely this one, the nearby 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).

It is trusted that it would be possible to determine aspects such as the lifestyle of the unit and get an indication of what things they did to keep them busy apart from the regular war activities. This will be used in comparison with the information of the other sites that have been excavated in the past.

The unit also contributed to the founding of the Kruger National Park. The adjutant of Steinaecker's Horse, major A Greenhill-Gardyne stated rules for the preservation of wildlife around Sabi Bridge. This document was used by major J Stevenson-Hamilton when he started working as first warden of the park. Quite a few of Steinaecker's Horse soldiers, such as Harry Wolhuter, became game rangers in the Kruger National Park.

Please contact Dr. Anton van Vollenhoven, regarding the research at 083 291 6104 or antonv@archaetnos.co.za



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