Klein Slangkop Skeleton Discovery

Land Parcel Type: 

Erf/Farm No.: 

4 717

HWC file No.: 


Street Address: 

Southern Right Crescent

Registered Owner: 

Mr Gerry Van Rensberg


Nature of Application: 

No Application - Investigation and recovery of disturbed material

Date of Site Visit: 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

HWC Representatives: 

Guy Thomas

Met on Site By: 

Gerry van Rensberg, Florientien Wisjenbeek

Reasons for Site Inspection: 

HWC was notified of the discovery of the Skull Case on Thursday 3 September. this was accompanied by the following letter. "Introduction: Sam Glen-van Nieuwenhuizen asked me to write a short article for the KSK-newsletter about a (re-)discovery I made in February. It was just a few days after we moved into our new house, Southern Right circle 142. As an archaeologist, graduated in Leiden in 1997 and working in the Netherlands as an archaeologist for about ten years, you are always on the lookout for archaeology. We are living in South Africa now for about five years and in those years I have learned about South African archaeology in some commercial projects (Paarl, Franschhoek and the Namaqualand) but mostly through a group of archeologist who voluntary explore the Eastern Cederberg and record all the new Rock art and archaeological sites we find. By now you must be curious to hear what I found that day in February. Under and around the small koppie (The Klein Slangkop mountain) I found numerous shell middens. Perhaps it is one gigantic midden but further research must establish that. The middens are man made features and exist mainly of shells, but you can also find stone artifacts, pottery, charcoal, bone etc. The middens at Klein Slangkop can be roughly dated in the Late Stone age (40.000 years ago- colonial times) because of the stone tools, so called microliths and the pottery I have found here. Pottery did only occur around 1000 years ago in this part of South Africa. The San and or Khoi-San (Bushmen) just like us, had found an excellent spot at klein Slangkop. Sheltered from the wind they could set up camp and exploit the various habitats in this rich surroundings. The sea, beach, brackish marshlands and surrounding mountains provided them with numerous and various foods. You can find our middens if you go to the Southern Right Circle, South site and take the little footpath towards the koppie. You will find the concentration of shells and other artifacts along either side of the path starting after about 200 meters. The sites are more visible at the West site of the path. Shell Midden: A shell midden is an archaeological term for a big heap of domestic waste mainly consisting of shells but very often animal bone, human excrement, botanical material, pottery, stone tools and other artifacts and ecofacts associated with past human occupation. The middens are very interesting for archaeologists because of studying all these artifacts you can reconstruct a “brief” view of those people who made them in the past. Many times the middens are made during more generations and comprise different occupation layers. Sometimes even thousands of years are sealed within these constructions. The South African archaeologist Jason Orton published some interesting articles about middens at the west coast. (Shell Middens in Namaqualand: Two Later Stone Age Sites at Rooiwalbaai, Northern Cape Province, South Africa: J. Orton, T. Hart and D. Halkett, The South African Archaeological BulletinVol. 60, No. 181 (Jul., 2005), pp. 24-32.) Conservation: At the moment the shell-middens are not under direct threat. The land where I have found them is not under planned development. The land belongs to the KSK homers association and/ or of Cape Nature. The precise location must be researched with accurate land measurement. The only threat at the moment is human trespassing and some biological features like animal digging, vegetation and climate. These are the things you can do to help conserve our archaeological heritage at our direct surroundings: If you walk at the footpath towards the Koppie stay as much as possible on the walking path. If you find artifacts of interest take pictures but leave them where you have found them. Do not take artifacts or displace them!! If we, home owners, are aware of the archaeological sites we can protect them as much as possible against future developments. Conclusion: At this moment of writing I am still busy to retrieve my inlog data for SAHRA (South African Heritage Resources Agency, www.sahra.org.za). In their archaeological d-base program I can find out if these sites are new or already discovered by Tim Hart and a survey team of archaeologist from ACO (Commercial Archaeology Office based at UCT). I will let you know as soon I found out. For further archaeological questions I am very willing to answer or showing the sites you can email me at floor.wijsenbeek@gail.com" Guy Thomas undertook a site inspection in order to retrieve the skull case, and to investigate the site to see if any other bone fragments were present on the site.

Findings of Site Inspection: 

The Skull had been discovered less than 5 meters from the edge of the house braai area. The skull was found loose on the surface and is likely in a secondary context. In discussion with Mr van Rensberg, he indicated that prior to them moving in to the house 5 years ago (the house was built circa 2006/2007), they were notified by the previous owner that a skeleton had been found during the construction of the swimming pool. These remains were not reported to the authorities, and were thrown into the bush surrounding the property. The skull in question likely comes from this event. The cranium in question is somewhat damaged, besides being disarticulated from the rest of the skull, the cranium (both parietal bones and an incomplete frontal bone), show modern damage that has not weathered. The bones are bleached, but are not brittle, implying that the bones have been exposed for some time. The immediate context of the skull site had small fragments of limpet and tortoise bone, however this could have been from the disturbance of the site, or from in situ archaeology. The house has been built on a shell midden, but this is not immediately evident. it is likely that if any further development on the site were to take place, that more archaeological resources would be impacted, however thsi does not seem to be an immediate threat. Other human remains that were unearthed during the pool construction could still be encountered on the site, however due to the extremely dense bush on the site, this is unlikely to occur in the short term, and would be difficult to predict.

Which committee should this report be submitted to?: