Canteen Kopje

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Canteen Kopje site
general view of Canteen Kopje site from the nearby hill

Canteen Kopje is a spectacularly rich Earlier Stone Age situated outside Barkly West in the Northern Cape, South Africa. It is a Provincial Heritage Site and has an open-air trail including information boards. Further information, with examples of artefacts from the site (and a replica of the Canteen Kopje skull), is displayed at the Barkly West Museum as well as the McGregor Museum in nearby Kimberley.

Alluvial diamond diggings[edit]

One of the hills in the vicinity of Canteen Kopje was the site of the first alluvial diamond diggings (as opposed to surface prospecting) on the Diamond Fields of South Africa, which precipitated the rush to these parts in 1870.[1] Digging continued here until the early 1940s.

Recognition of archaeological significance[edit]

Earlier Stone Age artefacts were noted in the area by Colonel James Henry Bowker and Mary Elizabeth Barber at the time of the earliest diamond diggings. Eminent prehistorians including C. van Riet Lowe, the French prehistorian, the Abbé Henri Breuil and J. Desmond Clark visited and described it.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11] Breuil was here in 1929 and again in the 1940s, when he famously noted that “not only are there enough specimens [there] to fill a museum to overflowing but to build it of them also.”

Preserved and almost lost[edit]

On account both of the mining history as well as the finding of Acheulean artefacts at this spot, a 10 morgen portion of Canteen Kopje was declared a National Monument (since 2000 known as a provincial heritage site) in 1948.[12] Mining recommenced in the vicinity in the 1990s and Canteen Kopje was nearly lost. Pressure was exerted for the site to be de-proclaimed as a heritage site, to allow for renewed diamond digging and ‘empowerment’ of small scale miners. The local community recognised the value of conserving heritage and supported the efforts of the then National Monuments Council and the McGregor Museum to preserve the site, which was then developed as an open-air museum. The new Barkly West Museum was created at the same time.[13]

Archaeological and geological investigations from the 1990s[edit]

Excavations in the late 1990s were carried out by Peter Beaumont of the McGregor Museum. John McNabb from the University of Southampton worked with Beaumont in analysing the Acheulean stone artefact technology.[14][15][16][17] Further excavations have been carried out by archaeologists from the University of the Witwatersrand (inter alia for application of cosmogenic nuclide burial dating).

Crucial to the interpretation of the archaeology of the site, is an understanding of site formation in relation to the adjacent hill and the Vaal River which at different periods cut down first to the north of the site and then the south west.[18][19][20][21]

In 2007-9 a 7-metre sequence through Hutton Sands and Gravels was excavated to carry out dating and a detailed analysis of the lithic profile. There is a marked 'Victoria West' Acheulean horizon (named for the town in the Karoo where these stone tools were first described) in the upper part of the gravels, subject to a current Southampton PhD project. The lower part of the sequence contains simpler, older Acheulean technology.

Later Stone Age material at and just below the surface has been studied in two excavations by archaeologists from the University of the Witwatersrand and Toronto.

Canteen Kopje Skull[edit]

The Canteen Kopje Skull was found in the vicinity in 1925 and was described in Nature by Robert Broom in 1929.[22][23] It is currently subject to re-appraisal.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Babe, J. 1872. The South African Diamond Fields. New York: David Wesley.
  2. ^ Johnson, J.P.; Young, R.B. (1906). "The relation of ancient deposits of the Vaal River to the palaeolithic period of South Africa". Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa 9: 53–56. 
  3. ^ Péringuey, Louis (1911). "The stone ages of South Africa as represented in the collections of the South African Museum". Annals of the South African Museum 8: 1–218. 
  4. ^ Power, J.H. (1949). "The contribution of the northern Cape to the study of prehistoric man". South African Journal of Science 46: 107–116. 
  5. ^ Söhnge, P.G.; Visser, D.J.L.; van Riet Lowe, C. (1937). "The geology and archaeology of the Vaal River basin". Geological Survey of South Africa Memoir 35: 1–134. 
  6. ^ Goodwin, A.J.H. (1928). "The archaeology of the Vaal River gravels". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 16: 77–102. doi:10.1080/00359192809519659. 
  7. ^ Goodwin, A.J.H. (1934). "Some developments in technique during the Earlier Stone Age". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 21 (2): 109–123. doi:10.1080/00359193309519316. 
  8. ^ Goodwin, A.J.H.; van Riet Lowe, C. (1929). "The stone age cultures of South Africa". Annals of the South African Museum 27: 1–270. 
  9. ^ Helgren, D.M. (1978). "Acheulean settlement along the lower Vaal River, South Africa". Journal of Archaeological Science 5: 39–60. doi:10.1016/0305-4403(78)90017-1. 
  10. ^ Van Riet Lowe, C. (1929). "Further notes on the archaeology of Sheppard Island". South African Journal of Science 26: 665–683. 
  11. ^ Van Riet Lowe, C. (1945). "The evolution of the Levallois technique in South Africa". Man 45: 49–59. doi:10.2307/2791434. JSTOR 2791434. 
  12. ^ Oberholster, J.J. 1972. The historical monuments of South Africa. Stellenbosch: The Rembrandt van Rijn Foundation for Culture for the National Monuments Council.
  13. ^ Turkington, T. (2000). "Realising a dream: Canteen Kopje and the new Barkly West Museum". The Digging Stick 17 (3): 1–3. 
  14. ^ Beaumont, P.B. 1990. Canteen Koppie (Klipdrift). In Beaumont, P. & Morris, D. (eds.) Guide to Archaeological sites in the Northern Cape. 14–16. McGregor Museum: Kimberley
  15. ^ Beaumont, P. & McNabb, J. (2000a.) Report for the National Monuments Council of South Africa on excavations by Peter Beaumont at Canteen Koppie, Barkly West, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Unpublished report, with supplement by Peter Beaumont
  16. ^ Beaumont, P.; McNabb, J. (2000b). "Canteen Kopje: the recent excavations". The Digging Stick 17 (3): 3–6. 
  17. ^ McNabb, J. (2001) The shape of things to come: a speculative essay on the role of the Victoria West phenomenon at Canteen Koppie during the South African Earlier Stone Age. In Milligen, S. & Cook, J. (eds) “A very remote period indeed”: papers on the Palaeolithic presented to Derek Roe. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  18. ^ Helgren, D.M. (1979) River of diamonds: an alluvial history of the lower Vaal basin, South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago. Department of Geography. Research Paper 185
  19. ^ De Wit, M.C.J., Ward, J.D. & Jacob, J.R. (1997) Diamond-bearing deposits of the Vaal-Orange River System. Field Excursion Guidebook 6th International Conference on Fluvial Sedimentology, University of Cape Town, September 1997 2, 1–61
  20. ^ De Wit, M.C.J. (2008). "Canteen Koppie at Barkly West: South Africa's first diamond mine". South African Journal of Geology 111: 53–66. doi:10.2113/gssajg.111.1.53. 
  21. ^ Canteen Koppie at Barkly West: South Africa’s first diamond mine
  22. ^ Broom, R. (1929). "Australoid elements in the Korannas". Nature 124 (3127): 507. Bibcode:1929Natur.124..507B. doi:10.1038/124507a0. 
  23. ^ Wells, L.H. (1948). "The Canteen Koppie skull". South African Science 1: 156–157. 

Coordinates: 28°32′34″S 24°31′52″E / 28.54278°S 24.53111°E / -28.54278; 24.53111