Transvaal and to a lesser extent of Johannesburg before the first white settlers arrived in the early nineteenth century.
“In the Transvaal we live in a province rich in memories of ancient human life…. we have seen the social scale expand from the Stone Age family ... to the larger but politically unstable Iron Age community and, today, to a Transvaal society numbered in millions”.1 This quotation sums up the existence of rich diversity of communities that lived in the Transvaal.
Revel Mason, previously of the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of the Witwatersrand, has described the existence of the prehistoric communities accordingly: “Achuel people lived in the Transvaal till the end of the Earlier Stone Age…over fifty thousand years ago. [They] died before the first Middle Stone Age Pietersburg people…crossed the Vaal and found that they liked the bushveld and its north-flowing streams. The last Stone Age People in the Transvaal … came from the Free State …[and were displaced]… by Iron Age people. The invaders brought mining, farming and housebuilding to the Transvaal. This is the vague shape of what happened in the2 Transvaal before John Campbell brought written history to the country in 1820”.
Ms Amanda Esterhuysen, Archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), undertook a search of the Wits archaeological archive and found only one reference to an in situ Early Stone Age site in Craighall Park which was found in a donga. Unfortunately, no information is provided as to where the donga was and what the co-ordinates of the site are. The archaeology archive was opened in the 1930s as part of the Government Bureau of Archaeology, and includes data from the Bureau’s successors, viz., the A r c h a e o l o g i c a l S u r v e y , t h e A r c h a e o l o g y D e p a r t m e n t a n d t h e A r c h a e o l o g i c a l R e s e a r c h Unit of the University of the Witwatersrand. 3
To date, no physical evidence has been found of pre-historic communities residing in the Craighall Park area apart from the find mentioned above. However, the find suggests the possibility that early inhabitants of the Transvaal may have lived on or near the ridge because of its then 360 degree views across the veld and beyond. What more could a community want than a site with water relatively close by (the Braamfontein Spruit) to water the community and animals and unrestricted views of their surroundings?
Iron Age furnaces have been found at various sites scattered across Johannesburg. The best known is the furnace on Melville Koppies. It was carbon-dated to around 1600AD and three other furnaces have been found on the Melville ridge. Further afield, 13 furnaces have been found at Honeydew, three at Lonehill and further east near Bruma Lake another furnace was found.4 These furnaces point to the existence of prehistoric communities in the greater Johannesburg area.
1 2 3 4
Prehistory of the Transvaal, Mason, R., p 440 Mason, R, p 4 Telephonic conversation with Ms Esterhuysen on 30 July 2005 and e-mail dd 1 August 2005 www.joburg.org.za/feb-2002/melville.stm, p 3-4