Two well known researchers recently made an interesting find in the Karoo. Dr Johan Loock and Cobus Dreyer, from the University of the Free State, were conducting studies to evaluate the impact of a proposed extension electric power line on artefacts and the ecology in the area of farms such as Leeukloof, Bultfontein and Gansfontein, northwest of Beaufort West.
Archaeologist Cobus Dreyer says many cultural and historic finds were made along the route. “We found were substantial surface scatters of Later Stone Age flakes and pottery, lower and upper grinding stones and fossilised remains of lizard-like reptiles. We also saw many rocks smoothed by animal rubbing. Then, at a long-forgotten ash heap near the old Bultfontein farmhouse we found three cartridge cases which were really captured out interest.” From inscriptions on their head stamps Cobus and Johan discovered that these cartridges dated back to three different wars. This posed the question of how they got there.
The oldest was an 8×57 Mauser cartridge. Its headstamp 3 99 P revealed it had been manufactured as military ammunition in March, 1899, at a factory in Polte, in Marburg, Germany. “Such cartridges were used during WWI and in the 1915 German South West African Campaign,” says Cobus. The others were ,303 cartridges. The older, stamped K35 VII, was manufactured by Kynock Witton in Birmingham in the United Kingdom. “Such cartridges were used for military training and for target shooting.” The other, also a British cartridge, was manufactured in 1944. “Its head stamp – U44 VII – indicated it had been manufactured by the SA Mint in Pretoria for the Union Defence Force also for military, training and target shooting purposes,” said Cobus. Well-known geologist, military historian and expert shottist Dr Johan Loock concluded: “Since the ,303 calibre cartridge cases date from post-World War I and WWII respectively, the ammunition could have been used by members of the Union Defence Force or local Commandos for target shooting practice. The 8mm Mauser cartridge, however, posed somewhat of a mystery. We speculate that the ammunition could have been brought to German South West Africa by the Deutsche Schütz Troops during World War I. How the cartridge case landed up in the Karoo is not clear. The most likely conclusion is that it was collected by a member of the South African Defence Force during the 1915 German South West Africa Campaign and brought here. This just proves that the Karoo is a never ending source of intrigue and that the area still has much to reveal.”