CASE STUDY

Reburial of iron age skeletal remains in Wonderkop

Reburial of iron age remains

‘We, the present custodians of this land commemorate all who walked, worked and lived here before us. We follow in the footsteps of the trail blazers, the first hunters, farmers and miners. We hail you and will remember you for always. May our efforts to fill your footsteps be worthy to such an extent that our descendants may share the compassion with which you are treasured in our hearts’.

These are the words inscribed on a memorial plaque unveiled at a memorial ceremony held on Saturday 20 July 2013, to commemorate the reburial of human skeletal remains that had been found at the Lonmin Smelter in 2006, during excavations to build a retaining wall around the reservoir.

Any archaeological remains determined to be older than 60 years are classified as historically significant and legally protected, and these fell into this category. In fact, other remains found in the area, including graves, stone walled kraals and stone tools, date back to the late Iron Age between 1660 and1880.

The memorial event was marked by Lonmin, members of the Bapo Royal Family, the Morolong family, ward councillors of Madibeng and elders and representatives of the Greater Lonmin community (GLC). It was the culmination of a project that had begun in 2011, when Lonmin initiated negotiations with SAHRA on behalf of the Wonderkop community to return the skeletal remains to the community for reburial.

Heritage resources, such as archaeological and historical sites – including graves – have lasting value and provide evidence of the origins of South African society. They must be carefully managed to ensure their survival and any historically significant sites are protected by the NHRA.

It was indeed a very special event for Lonmin and those who attended expressed their appreciation, respect and gratitude to those Lonmin representatives who had made it possible. The project serves as an example of how Lonmin strives to make a difference for people living in the GLC.