More than 27 sites within the 11 000 hectare Coega Industrial Development Zone in the Eastern Cape have revealed fascinating evidence dating back to the Stone Age, linking the area to a rich history of toolmaking and manufacture.
The Coega Development Corporation (CDC) is playing a vital role in ensuring that the rich heritage of the Eastern Cape is preserved for future generations.
“September is National Heritage Month. It seems fitting then that the CDC pays tribute to the history of the area by acknowledging the role that early Stone Age inhabitants played here in being at the forefront of technological development. At the same time as creating a new manufacturing and empowerment heritage, the CDC is doing its best to preserve the historic sites in the IDZ for future generations,” says Dr Ayanda Vilakazi, CDC Head of Marketing and Communications.
CDC preserves historical sites within the IDZ
“Guided by the National Heritage Resources Act, we have taken on the responsibility of preserving Hougham (pronounced Huffam) Park, a house and cottage of historical importance, both of which have been left empty for some time,” says Andrea Shirley, CDC’s Environmental Project Manager, adding that there are 34 sites of historical importance within the Coega IDZ.
One of the oldest farmhouses in the Nelson Mandela Metro area, the house is named after Hougham Hudson, who built it in 1840. He was the first Resident Magistrate and Civil Commissioner of Albany. Hudson is buried in the IDZ, in which 10 cemeteries and a number of individual gravesites have been identified. All are being cared for by the CDC, and are open to visits by relatives.
In addition, the IDZ houses remains of one of the radar stations that were built around Algoa Bay. The radar station was guarded by the Native Military Corps, whose members were also responsible for bringing rations to the soldiers and technicians stationed in the SSS barracks at the facility.
Another interesting building, dating back from the early 19th century, is a mud and brick cottage near the Coega railway station and is typical of ordinary farm outbuildings of the era. There is also a stone viaduct under the railway line which dates from about 1875 when the railway line from Port Elizabeth to Uitenhage was constructed.
“Then, as now, it was important for Coega to be connected to the hinterland as well as the rest of the world. The IDZ is connected to the local and international markets through a network of road and rail links on the land side, with global shipping and air cargo routes connecting the IDZ directly to the rest of the world,” says Vilakazi.
History of Stone Age artefacts at Coega IDZ
Artefacts such as scrapers, flakes and knives, as well as traces of Late Stone Age inhabitants in the form of coastal middens (shell heaps), were found during a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) commissioned by the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) in 2010.
Middens of Strandlopers, who were the last of the hunter gatherers to live in the Hougham Park area, have also been found. The population was decimated by smallpox in 1740, and many graves have been found at the Swartkops River mouth close to where Settlers Bridge now stands. Their memory lives on in the name Coega or Ngqura, which comes from the Hottentot word for “wildebeest”.
“While the finds itself are not new, it is interesting to note these finds point to the Coega IDZ having a heritage of manufacturing dating back nearly 2,5 million years when the Early Stone Age people of Africa are believed to have started using tools for the first time,” concludes Shirley.