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METAL AGE

Some of the oldest known fragments of the earth's surface are found in this area. They are granite-greenstone formations that crystallised between 3.5 billion and 2.7 billion years ago.

Now known as the Murchison and Sutherland Ranges, these formations reveal not only some of the secrets of the beginning of life, but contain a wealth of minerals including abundant deposits of iron- and copper- bearing ores

COPPER & CURRENCY

The largest and most extensively decentralised ancient mining industry found in Southern Africa was around Phalaborwa. The ores mined here were then azurite and malachite for copper (the metal does not occur here in its pure form), red ochre as a highly valuable and symbolic colouring agent and magnetite (as a source of iron).

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STONE AGE

Archaeological evidence found along the ancient river terraces of the Lower Olifants River reveals simple, unspecialised stone tools. Current thinking doubts that Homo australopithecines was a tool-maker, and these are almost certainly the product of Homo habilis.  Known as pebble tools, they are the size of a human fist, oval in shape, with some flakes chipped off one side or an end.

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Archeology, which is the scientific study of historic or prehistoric peoples and their cultures by analysis of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments, and other such remains, esp. those that have been excavated, is rife in the k2C region.

The Lowveld Region on whole is dotted with hills and valleys where you will find traces of the early San (Bushmen) people who left their marks in ancient rock paintings and engravings in the many caves of the area. In addition you will also find a variety of archeological ruins, old wagon trails and gold diggings scattered throughout the region.

Although a large number of the San Paintings are not easily accessible to the average tourist, there are a great number of additional archeological sites that are.  Some examples of these include (amongst many others):

Masorini Ruins

Albasini Ruins

Pilgrims Rest Gold Digging Site

Old Leydsdorp Rd wagon Trail

MASORINI RUINS

This late Iron Age site can be found on a prominent hillside just 12 km from the Phalaborwa gate on the tar road to Letaba rest camp (39km from Letaba on the Phalaborwa road).

The site was inhabited by the Sotho speaking BaPhalaborwa during 1800’s, who developed an advanced and sophisticated industry of mining, smelting iron ore and trading in these iron products.

Dome shaped clay furnaces found on the site were used to smelt the iron ore. Skin bags attached to the end of clay piping were used as bellows. These clay pipes led into the dome furnaces through 2-3 openings. The ore would flow into the middle of the furnace due to the inward sloping floors and once cooled would be removed and stored. When there was enough smelted ore for production it would be reheated, beaten (to remove impurities) and moulded into the desired products such as spears, arrowheads and simple agricultural implements.

For over a thousand years trading was an integral part of life on the sub-continent with trade taking place inland between different groups and along the coast with Arab and Chinese merchants. Due to this various trade routes were established, with an important one bypassing Phalaborwa where metal was worked and traded for glass beads, ivory, animal products and food. Trade between the BaPhalaborwa at Masorini and the Venda in the North and the Portuguese on the east coast increased smelting and ensured a greater independence for them.

ALBASINI RUINS

The remains of the 19th century trading post of the famous Portuguese trader, Joao Albasini is found at the new Phabeni Gate, 10 km from Hazyview.

Over the ages trading activity has taken place in the south-eastern region of Africa. Lourenco Marques, now known as Maputo (Mozambique) would have been the starting point (or end point) of many of the ancient trading routes that criss-crossed the countryside. When Albasini arrived in the, then Portuguese occupied, port in the early 1800’s, he began setting up his trading business. He set up a network of trading routes that reached the inland as far as the Lowveld and by 1845 he had established a trading post at Magashula’s Kraal (now known as Albasini Ruins). This trading post was conveniently positioned along two of these ancient trade routes.

It is popular belief that Albasini’s settlement at Magashula’s Kraal was the first European settlement in the disease ridden Lowveld.

LEYDSDORP

Leydsdorp, the smallest city in South Africa and once the capital of the Lowveld, was named in honour of President Paul Kruger's secretary of state, Dr William Leyd. Having shot his first lion at the age of twelve, Paul Kruger was a keen hunter and used to visit his hunting house (which can still be seen today) on a regular basis. In fact, he enjoyed it so much, that when he needed to put his signature on a few important documents that were only allowed to be signed in a city, he proclaimed it as such. And thus Leydsdorp was proclaimed an official city on 1 October 1890. However, the history of Leydsdorp started as early as 1870 with the discovery of gold, the extent of which was fully recognised in 1887/8, starting the 2nd gold rush in South Africa. Sadly, just when uncle Paul thought he could maintain state control over the mining through the proclamation of the area as the Selati Goldfields, the sudden and rapid boom ended as quickly as it had started.

Today, Leydsdorp is one of the few towns where the dead outnumber the living. During the eighties, the smallest city in South Africa boasted eight pubs and over 3 000 prospectors. This century however has seen the revival of Leydsdorp. It is said that gold is still plentiful in the area, but not in commercially viable quantities. The original buildings have been restored and are in operation like the Leydsdorp Lodge and Hotel, the present day local watering hole. Their hospitality, well stocked bar and excellent steaks offer the unique opportunity to spend the night. Just maybe a lost whisper in the wind or from the walls will tell of a begotten period, where the lure of gold compelled many a brave soul to leave all behind and pioneer untrodden paths, dangers and mosquitoes in search of a tiny yellow nugget.

PILGRIM’S REST

Mining in this region of Mpumalanga dates back many centuries, when unknown miners worked quartz reefs in the area for gold.

Proof of these diggings can still be found in this area.

The history of this small delightful village dates back to 1873 when a miner, Alex Patterson, discovered alluvial gold on the farm named Ponieskrantz.

He had left the Mac-Mac area to search for a place that was less congested.

Though the discovery was kept as a secret, the inevitable happened when a second prospector William Trafford also discovered gold close by.

What they had found in this beautiful valley drew optimistic gold panners and prospectors from all over the country and the World (news of gold strikes of this magnitude travel fast !).

On 22nd September 1873 Pilgrim's Rest was officially proclaimed a gold field and the scatter of tents and rudimentary shacks soon grew into a flourishing little village complete with sturdy brick houses, church, shops, canteens, a newspaper and the well-known Royal Hotel.

The diggers called it Pilgrim's Rest because here, at last, after so many false trails and faded dreams they had truly found their home.

 In due course the alluvial deposits were depleted and the locals turned to forestry, but their village, whose residents still number in the hundreds, has been painstakingly preserved as a "living museum" and major South African tourist venue.


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