Mining on the frontier: Archaeological excavation of the historical component at Canteen Kopje, Northern Cape Province, South Africa

Michael Chazan, Alexandra Sumner, Liora Kolska Horwitz, David Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Canteen Kopje was a prominent location within the spread of nineteenth century mining camps at Klipdrift along the Vaal River. This article presents the results of excavation of the historical component of Canteen Kopje that produced an artifact assemblage in which European manufactured ceramics and glass are associated with objects of local manufacture, which attests to the cultural interaction that took place in the context of early mining. These finds of material culture are associated with a faunal assemblage of wild animals primarily the remains of quagga, a species that was soon to go in extinct. Based on historical documentation and pictorial representation it is argued that the earliest Vaal River diamond diggings here represent a stage of extractive economies in southern Africa when the rigid control of space and people that emerged subsequently was not yet fully developed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-163
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA


The excavations at Canteen Kopje took place within the context of a field course for the Heritage Studies Certificate Program and we are grateful to all of the students who have participated over the years who are writing a new chapter in the archaeology of the Northern Cape. Garth Benneyworth, the Head of Department at Sol Plaatje University initiated and has sustained the field course. Fieldwork was funded in part by a grant to M. Chazan from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council . We are grateful to Duncan Miller for his insight into the metal remains and to C.J. Evans and Craig Cessford for their assistance with the description of the European ceramics. Participation of students from the University of Toronto was funded by the University of Toronto Research Excursion Program . Steven James Walker devised the recording method and mapping system used at the site and we were also assisted by staff of the McGregor Museum, including Jane Jaubert and Koot Msawula. It is with sadness that we recognize the recent loss of Koot Msawula and our gratitude for his many contributions to our research in the Northern Cape.

FundersFunder number
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
University of Toronto


    • Canteen Kopje
    • Colonial frontier
    • Historical archaeology
    • Quagga
    • Tswana pottery
    • Vaal alluvial diggings


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