Cape Town, April 14 : Archaeologists have found the remains of a black Boer War concentration camp in South Africa, dating back more than 100 years.
About 1,200 refugees were moved from locations in Jacobsdal, Boshof and Petrusburg to a farm 30 km outside Kimberley in the then Orange Free State, after the British forces had occupied the towns.
It is believed that these black civilians were forcibly removed from the outskirts of Kimberley between April and September 1901, carrying what personal belongings they could with them.
They had to build their own shelters from packing crates, grain bags, corrugated iron, tarpaulins and local vegetation, while enduring the cold and the heavy snow which fell in Kimberley that year.
Though local archaeologists had been searching in vain for the location of the camp for several years, they could not locate it.
But, when in late 2001, a Kimberley farmer stumbled on a leg of a potjie pot and some broken glass on his farm, miles away from anywhere; historian and research associate Garth Benneyworth and archaeologist and research associate Elizabeth Voigt were called out to the site to investigate the find.
To their surprise, the pair found a burial site and the living area of the black Boer War concentration camp.
"We couldn't believe it. We had searched for so long and the area was so vast," said Benneyworth, adding that there was no historical content elaborating on the black concentration camps, as all evidence was destroyed by the British forces at the end of the war.
An insight into the concentration camp experience of African civilians between 1901 and 1902 unfolded in the following few years, in which time Benneyworth and Voigt used GPS plotting, mapping, extensive photography, as well as extensive archival research and oral history to piece together the past.
"The archival research and foot-slogging over other camp sites revealed standard patterns of occupation which were based on British military requirements," said Vogit.
"This work is of use in interpreting the finds made on the Kimberley camp site. These extensive foot surveys revealed a suite of cultural remains which can be taken as reflecting life in the camp," he added.
The two researchers uncovered grindstones, fragments of glass and china from broken plates, cups and bowls, pieces of ethnic pottery, as well as iron potjie pots, buckets and long strips of iron.
They also found the remains of ration tins, identifiable as being of the right period by shape and method of manufacture.
Personal items were also found, including fragments of a bangle, hooks from clothing, an earring and several buttons.