Excavations begin on Rustenburg Burial Ground

06 November 2008 | Story by Helen Théron

excavation team
Ground work: Archaeologists have begun excavating an area of the Rustenburg Burial Ground near All Africa House.

UCT has begun archaeological investigations in the area of the Rustenburg Burial Ground, adjacent to and beneath All Africa House, built in 1996 before the burial ground was identified.

Initially, the team will excavate about three trenches, one of which will cut through the tennis court.

UCT plans to expand its campus in this area to meet the demands of a growing student body. Archaeologists believe this was the burial ground that served the 17th to 19th century community that worked and lived on Rustenburg Farm.

The archaeological investigations follow broad public consultation with the stakeholder group formed through a year-long public participation process. This process is required by the South African Heritage Resources Act. The team is working to agreed terms of reference and in accordance with international best practice.

The work is being done by the Archaeology Contracts Office, by Hart, Dave Halkett, Lita Webley, Kathryn Underwood, Mpakamo Sasa, and Tandazo Mjikeliso.

"Historical documents suggest that an area of, say 30mx50m, was walled off sometime in the late 19th century," Hart said. "However the burial ground was older than that. One of the reasons we are excavating is that we need to find out if there are any graves outside the historically identified area."

Hart said the excavation was not intended to unearth human remains.

"We do need to find out if there are 'safe areas' where UCT can expand, and also establish if there are any graves outside the historically delineated area.

"If we happen to find anything that looks like human bone, work will stop and the find will be reported to UCT and the stakeholder group for further discussion."

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