100-year-old rubbish dump found under Joburg zoo parking lot

2015-09-08 08:04
Some of the bones found at during excavations for a parkade at Johannesburg Zoo. (Photos supplied by PGS Heritage)

Some of the bones found at during excavations for a parkade at Johannesburg Zoo. (Photos supplied by PGS Heritage)

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Johannesburg - Bottles of Bovril, ginger beer, soda water, and strange tonics about 100 years old have been found underneath the parking lot of the Johannesburg Zoo.

None of them appear to be consumable, and strangely enough, no beer bottles have been found, says Brendan Hart, of Mayat Hart Architects and Heritage Consultants.

They were found in what is believed to have been a rubbish dump, or ash midden as archaeologists call it, during construction for a new parkade at the zoo, next to Upper Park Drive in Parkview.

After bones were dug up during excavations for the parkade in July, Mayat Hart appointed archaeologists from PGS Heritage to examine the site. The bones were found to be from animals, mainly cows, with some sheep, and chicken, according to a proposal document for the project by PGS Heritage.

Hart said some of the medicine bottles were still corked and contained liquids. They appeared to be tonics and home-made remedies.

Earthenware bottles found at the site were embossed with the word Braamfontein, the farm on which the suburb with the same name was established in the late 1880s.

The pieces of ceramics that were found appear to have been imported from Europe and the Far East and then transported up from the coast, suggesting that the residents of that area were, like today, from the city's upper crust.

Some of the bottles and other items found at the site. (Photo supplied by PGS Heritage)

The preliminary guess is that the site dates from the early 1900s, and was layered over a period of 20 to 30 years, says Hart. Apart from bottles and ceramics, the midden was used to dump ash, and animal bones.

The artefacts will be catalogued and put into archives. Hopefully some will be put on display at the zoo, says Hart.

Construction of the parkade will continue once the archaeologists have completed their work and compiled their report, in about a month.

Hart commended City Parks for its approach to the matter and for following the correct procedures.

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