Archaeology at Solms Delta
It has always been an important part of the Solms-Delta ethos to uncover and celebrate all the voices and influences that have had a role to play in making this farm’s history what it is – whether they are settler, slave, indigenous inhabitant or present day farm resident. It was not possible to undertake such a journey through archival research alone – a resource that is limited within the last three and a half centuries and to the confines of what information colonial offices deemed important in capturing. Another way into the past was through the material remains that people have left behind – in the form of the buildings they built, alterations to the landscape, or more simply the things people threw away in the past. This allowed us not only to learn more about the lives of the first settlers 350 years ago, but the indigenous Khoe and San communities that inhabited this region thousands of years ago, and even further back than that to our human ancestors.
Excavations started in 2005 when archaeologists uncovered the ruins of what we believe was the original farm dwelling from 1690. The excavations exposed a U-shaped structure built in three phases. The first phase was a simple dwelling consisting of a kitchen and living area, most likely built by the farm’s first owners, Hans Silverbag and Callus Louw who were two German hunters.
Less than a metre from this ruin, trenches uncovered a wealth of small stone tools together with the waste material from knapping them. This shows us that hunter-gatherers used this site some 6 000 years before farm was granted to the settlers.
These excavations also uncovered the well in front of the restaurant which probably dates to the turn of the last century. Early and Middle Stone Age tools were additionally found scattered on the surface of the farm. While these particular artefacts were not found in a proper archaeological context, their presence even on the surface of the farm gives testimony to the presence of our human ancestors on this landscape for millennia.
Other artefacts in the form of broken ceramic sherds, glass bottle fragments, agricultural materials, and even the layout and structure of buildings themselves, help us to date and construct a time-line for the habitation of the farm through time.
In 2008, excavations were started in the wine cellar, where our Fyndraai restaurant is now situated. The earlier walls and structures of this building can now be seen under the glass floor and show the evolution of the building since its construction around the turn of the eighteenth century.
Excavations were also undertaken in the stable building east of the farmhouse (presently where Fyndraai Restaurant and our music exhibition is situated). The building originally had a room with a cobbled floor, a narrow room adjacent to it, a large open central room and two three-roomed apartments with two fireplaces. This fits the pattern of a wagon shed with a tack room, stables and rooms for the groom and his family.