Rescue excavation of an Early Iron Age site near Umkomaas
Excavation tea time: The excavation trench showing the shell layer and the partially excavated Iron Age pit (Photo credit: Rosemary Archibald).
In July 2021, residents at the Widenham Retirement Village in Umkomaas alerted archaeologists at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum to pottery and stone artefacts exposed during construction work in the village. An assessment showed that an Iron Age shell midden had been exposed. Pottery finds showed that the site dated to around AD 400–600. The contractor temporarily halted work so that archaeological excavations could take place. Gavin Whitelaw and Ghilraen Laue from the museum’s Human Sciences Department, along with Kefilwe Rammutloa, a visiting researcher from Yale University, spent 10 days at the site extracting as much information as possible before it was destroyed. Many of the Widenham residents were excited by the find and helped by sorting the finds and providing logistical support.
Gavin Whitelaw directing the removal of the top soil (Photo credit: Rosemary Archibald).
Widenham Retirement Village residents helping with sorting (Photo credit: Rosemary Archibald).
Kefilwe Rammutloa and Gavin Whitelaw measuring the section profile for drawing (Photo credit: Rosemary Archibald).