An archaeological dig this week unearthed artefacts worth millions of Pula belonging to the late South African President Nelson Mandela at a hideout inside an incomplete house in Lobatse, Sunday Standard has learnt.
The artefacts described as “highly significant” included rice sacks and other unidentified treasures included among others remnants of ammunition as well as other metal ornaments which were unearthed using metal detectors. Authorities are expected to┬átake the artefacts for further┬álaboratory analysis before displaying them at the museum.
Sources this week dispelled growing speculation that the digging that lasted for more than two days with the use of metal detectors was a search for the gun.
Rumours were this week flying fast and thick that the people digging (driving cars with South African number plates) were looking for the Kalashnikov weapon which Mandela had while receiving military training in Ethiopia.
It was later established that some of the people digging were from British film, Production Company called Dearheart who are interested in shooting a film based on the story of Mandela’s stay with the Keitseng family.
While he didn’t want to disclose the nature of the artefacts uncovered at the Keitseng yard where Mandela stayed, Head of Archaeology and Monuments at the National Museum,Phillip Segadika confirmed that several artefacts were uncovered at the place this week.
“Under the leadership of the National Museum team we continued to excavate a section that has a midden (ash and rubbish pit) and found very interesting artefacts that will be essential in presenting the site and representing well the history of occupation of the site museum,” he said.
He said the ‘sacks of rice’ were empty plastic bags of rice that were thrown in the rubbish pit.┬á
“I should say the bags are very interesting for historical archaeology and in re-building the time line. Those found on the more recent upper levels are in kg mass while as you go down to 60cms they take the ‘pound’ measurements.┬á We found several other artefacts that will be displayed in the anticipated site museum,” he said.
On reports that the British film crew was also looking for Mandela’s hidden gun, Segadika said “In my understanding the film crew never expected to find the gun but we know the gun passed through Lobatse. Remember that other than South Africa, the story of Mandela to and from Ethiopia starts and ends in Peleng, Lobatse ÔÇô which is why we are convinced that story of Mandela is always incomplete without acknowledging the role of Botswana and among others the Lobatse’s Fish Keitseng family.”
Segadiga explained that the simulation digging and the archaeological excavation is part of the research that the National Museum is undertaking on site to valorize and improve the envisaged opening and presentation of the site to the public.┬á
“However, the so called ‘film crew digging’ was a practice and simulation┬á of a section that is expected in March 2014 when the film crew is expected to shoot the film in replication of the┬á Keitseng and Joe Modise reported digging up of the a reported ammunition in 1962,” he said.
He further explained that the shooting of the film is in March and it is then that the acting component of a specific spot where the simulation was done should take place.
“However, for the National Museum the excavation continues. So yes they found a safe spot to do the simulation in March and we will continue with the digging in due course after the analysis of the artefacts we have excavated,” said Segadika.
Sources said there was confusion in Lobatse as local authorities at one point ordered the archeologists and film makers to stop digging.
But Sediga denied that there was confusion “except the digging did attract local residents, granted that apart from ours, about three vehicles used were foreign number plates.┬á But we asked our team on site to stop the excavations, as part of the team brought the permits to show the authorities.”
“However, the digging continued as scheduled by our people once the matter had been cleared and once the preliminary research permit of their involvement was produced. In the end we realize we could have communicated better with, especially, the police whose presence also attracted more people,” he said. ┬á
┬áOfficer commanding in Lobatse Senior Superintendent Oreneetse Mogapaesi confirmed that they ordered the crew that was digging to stop. “We allowed them to continue after meeting museum officials who explained that they had permits to dig,” she said.
For his part, Lobatse Town Council Deputy Mayor Oganne Gontse denied reports that they intended to take legal action against the excavators for allegedly violating agreements of their visit. “As the local authority we were attracted to the scene to find out what was going on and later informed by museum authorities that the people digging had permission to do so,” he said.