03 August 2007

Garden Archaeology

What sort of antediluvian creature wielded this Fearsome Implement?

This axe-head is about 50% larger than any I've worked with.  Gnarled and knobbled with rust and encrustations, I have to wonder how long it has been lying in the soil...

I dug up this Fearsome Implement a few days ago, just as I was coming to the (final! eventual!) finish of a new deep bed in the veggie garden.  About 30cm deep, the fork stopped with a clunk.  We don't have many stones in the soil, here, but there are a few, so that was the natural assumption.  But nooooo....!

My guess is that the axe-head dates back to about the 1950's, but what do I know?  It could be as old as 120 years!  In other parts of the garden we've dug up such miscellan√¶a as Bed Springs, bicycle wheels, many, many glass bottles, ranging from Cheap Booze containers to Patent Medicine bottles, and, once, a Chrome Car Bumper (no doubt 1950's vintage.)

The entire neighbourhood was originally earmarked for the Knysna Woodcutter families -- hillbilly denizens of the Forest in the mid- to late-1800's, and this axe-head is exactly the sort of implement they would have used.  The earliest official survey of the Braamekraal plots is dated 1894.  Sadly the Woodcutters' descendents have mostly mostly moved on.

But the Woodcutters' allotments, one of which we occupy, their trash and their graves, overlay a much older story.  A Bushman1 landscape going back at least fifty-thousand years.  Most inhabitants of the neighbourhood have arrived within the last five to eight years, and are profoundly ignorant of the Woodcutter heritage over which they casually, carelessly splash their MacMansions.  How much more ignorant are they of the Bushman heritage under thir feet?

[1] This touches on a Whole Big Political Issue, about which I am profoundly ignorant. It seems that, whilst people in the NGO/UN/Politically Correct circles would prefer to refer to the Bushman Peoples -- the First Peoples of Africa -- as "the Khoisan tribes", the Bushman peoples themselves prefer the label "Bushman", finding some distinction between themselves and the Khoisan. I probably have the whole thing wrong. The fact remains that these are amongst the most-discriminated-against people in the whole world.  I believe that we could learn a whole lot from them -- or from what tattered remains of their heritage and knowledge still exists.

In SA we have eleven official languages. No single Khoisan language is among them.

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