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Nov 25

They lived in the Outer West Episode 1

How long have you lived in the Outer West? by Robin Lamplough Episode 1 Do you remember Hillcrest without traffic lights, Botha’s Hill with a small white post office, Waterfall without tarred roads? Do you recall the days when the Hillcrest end of Inanda Road was not cluttered with cluster housing? When there was no dam at the other end of the road? When the route through Kloof Gorge was a Sunday drive and not a seven-day racetrack? When Field’s Hotel was open for business as a place of accommodation? There have been many changes in the last fifty years. But in the century before that the changes had been just as great. Imagine the time when the nearest civilisation was in Pinetown? Imagine the impact of the railway line from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in the 1880s.  Imagine joining one of Clement Stott’s shooting parties in the valley below his house, which has become the Falcon Crest of today. And all the way through that time, people have been living in the Outer West. It is hard for us, at the beginning of the 21st century, to picture any area nearby where hunting parties could be gathered. Yet old Jack Field is reported to have shot Pinetown’s last elephant, as well as a lion, on the eastern reaches of his farm on Field’s Hill, less than 150 years ago. Old maps show that there was a Boer farm in West Riding called Buffelsfontein, or “Buffalo Spring”, not far from the present Camelot complex. And a leopard was killed near Waterfall not long before the Second World War. EARLIEST HUMANS It was the presence of abundant game, of course,that accounted for the earliest human occupation of the Outer West. For many centuries before white settlement, even before the arrival of black settlers, there were Stone Age hunter-gatherers living here. We know about this from the work of local archaeologists. Their studies in the area have shown evidence of the presence of hunter-gatherer communities over thousands of years. Related link>>Libcom.org Archaeologists from Pietermaritzburg have been working at Shongweni for almost sixty years.Prof Oliver Davies, whose discipline was the classics, was an enthusiastic amateur archaeologist.  He began investigating Shongweni’s South Cave just after the Second World War. He built up a large collection of stone tools and described them with great care. In the meantime, the thinking of South African archaeologists had begun to change. Some 35 years ago it was suggested that in Natal Stone Age people had moved about according to the seasons. Today most archaeologists accept this idea. They believe that the hunter-gatherers, dependent for their livelihood upon game migrations, spent their summers in the Drakensberg and their winters nearer the coast. During autumn and late winter,according to this view, they moved through the midlands. THOUSANDS OF YEARS When work began on the toll road in the Umhlatuzana valley in the early 1980s an exciting find was made. Local archaeologists began to examine an extensive Stone Age site now known as the Umhlatuzana Shelter, less than ten kilometres roughly northeast of Shongweni.. They concluded that this shelter had been in use for thousands of years.  Shongweni and Umhlatuzana are two places in the Outer West where evidence has been found of Stone Age occupation.  There must be many others as yet undiscovered. In recent years there has been a small group of enthusiasts in their spare time exploring the Gibu gorge near St Helier’s. No doubt, if the crags of Krantzkloof revealed their secrets, we would discover other sites there.Who were these people who lived so close to nature and who so skilfully exploited the opportunities of the world in which they lived? The old colonial name for them was taken from the Dutch: Bushmen. There are several places in KwaZulu-Natal, like the Bushman’s river near Estcourt, that remind us of their earlier haunts.  The old Boer name for the site of Pietermaritzburg was Bushman’s Ridge.  Then, a generation ago, because the name  ‘Bushman’ had become unacceptable; academics began to use the name ‘San’. One of these academics, David Lewis-Williams, a world authority on South African rock art, actually developed his interest in the subject while teaching at Botha’s Hill, giving us another Outer West connection. But today there has been a general tendency to return to the old name. So we can comfortably say that, in the Outer West, the first human residents of whom we know anything were the Bushmen, who at one time had the whole of Southern Africa to themselves.

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