23 Jan 2019 Ranger Reflections – Dean Wilkinson – Stones from the Bushmen Era
Recently, I was spending some time chatting to the elephant carers, when one of them told me that he wanted to show me something interesting. He came back with a little black shiny stone in his hand and being interested in rocks and minerals; I was excited to take a closer look.
I soon deduced that it was a rock with very high iron content, so we used a magnet and confirmed it was indeed magnetic.
He told me that the stone was just a chip from a much larger one and I asked him to get it. On examining the larger rock, I found grind marks on each of the flat surfaces, which is particularly interesting as it proves the rock was used by bushman to grind into powder.
Now here’s where most people ask why? The answer is straightforward, to smelt it into usable pieces of iron. The bushman would dig a large pit, line it with clay and build a fire inside. They would slowly drop the iron dust that they had ground off the rock into the coals. The small particles melted quickly, becoming molten and dripped into the bottom of the pit where they formed small nuggets. Those nuggets would then be beaten into anything they desired; such as jewellery, an arrow tip, a knife or a spearhead.
I showed them a gemstone that I picked up a while ago; a rough Apple Green Grossular Garnet.
This then prompted a few of them to bring me shiny stones that they had found in the bush, and they were interested to know what the rocks were.
Merely holding a stone that a bushman may have used, brings feelings of wonder and amazement. The others laughed at us for getting excited over ‘a bunch of rocks.’
Dean Wilkinson – Jabulani Ranger