Athlone Skeleton Discovery 13 August 2015

Land Parcel Type: 

Erf/Farm No.: 

132 008

HWC file No.: 


Street Address: 

49 Pooke Road, Athlone


Nature of Application: 

NO APPLICATION - Recovery of accidentaly discovered skeleton.

Date of Site Visit: 

Friday, 14 August 2015

HWC Representatives: 

Guy Thomas

Met on Site By: 

Belinda Speed (forensics)

Reasons for Site Inspection: 

A skeleton was discovered during construction activities on the site on Thursday 13 August. The skeleton was removed by the police, and only after ending up in the mortuary was it identified by Belinda Speed fromt he anatomy department. Dr Speed contacted Jenna Lavin regarding the possible archaeological nature of the skeleton, and it was agreed for Guy Thomas and Belinda Speed to visit the site on Friday 14 August in order to recover some of the missing bones such as the hands and feet, and a few of the teeth. the skeleton has several characteristics of an archaeological nature, including teeth in good condition, but with severe wear, additionally some of the facial features have strong pre-colonial features of an indigenous individual.

Findings of Site Inspection: 

ON visiting the site on the Friday 14 August 20`15, Mr Thomas and Dr Speed were met by the building owner Mr Mohammed Osman and several colleagues of his. the concrete slab of the building had been cut through in order to facilitate the construction of foundations for the building work that is currently ongoing.. these foundation trenchs are the source of the skeleton discovery. the initial trench was excavated to a depth of around 60 cm. this level was deemed to be too shallow by the contractors, and an additional 20 cms was excavated by the work crew for the corner posts of the new building. during this excavation, the skull of the individual was discovered. the police were called and the skeleton was removed by warrant officer Abrahams from the Athlone Police Department. The excavation was not conducted adequately with no archaeological context being recorded. the site was also left in a poor state where the loose sand collapsed and much of the structure of the grave pit was obliterated. Dr Speed and Mr Thomas sieved the spoil heaps from the police excavation. We were able to recover much of the missing skeletal material, including several metatarsals, tarsals, carpals, and phalanges. We also found part of the hyoid bone. We also found a single stone tool. The stone tool took the form of a quartzite flake with minor retouch around the edge. The flake was approximately 5cm long and 3cm at its widest point with a clear striking platform. Mr Thomas was able to record the stratigraphy of the site , as well as the approximate position of the skeleton at a depth of around 65cm deep. From discussions with the owners and employees on site, the buried individual was likely discovered in a sitting position., facing south west. In examining aerial photography of the site, the earliest photo shows the site covered by a large sand dune. The remnants of this dune probably account for the grey sand that makes up the matrix around the burial.

Which committee should this report be submitted to?: