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31 January 2004
Iron Age South African settlement found

Archaeologists in KwaZulu-Natal have unearthed human bones which they believe provide evidence of South Africa's first permanent agricultural community. The two arm bones, a leg bone and a shoulder blade were discovered at a site in Salt Rock, one of the richest Iron Age coastal sites to be excavated in KwaZulu-Natal. They were found in what seemed to be a shallow grave that had been trampled on and destroyed over time.
     "This is by far the richest Iron Age coastal midden [mound of relics] excavated in KwaZulu-Natal to date," said independent Pietermaritzburg archaeologist Len van Schalkwyk. "Now we have something concrete to highlight the activity of black farming communities. It will change the way history in South Africa is understood and taught," he said.
     Van Schalkwyk said people had lived along the coastline for centuries, using the ocean as one of their main food sources. "They obviously used the site to cook because the rocks we found were shattered with fire," Van Schalkwyk said. He also said that forensic tests would be conducted on the bones and relics to find out more about the activity of the early farmers.
     "We will do an isotope analysis of the bone which will give us trace elements to show us what they ate. This could be of significance to our current health system because it will show the significance of a seafood diet." The findings and the collected material will be handed over to Amafa/Heritage KwaZulu-Natal.
     Francis Thackeray, the principal researcher at the Northern Flagship Institution in Pretoria (formerly the Transvaal Museum), said the first discovery of ancient human remains in South Africa was at Border Cave in the Lebombo mountains, north of KwaZulu-Natal near Swaziland, in about 1960 and they were about 100,000 years old.

Source: Sunday Times - South Africa (25 January 2004)

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