Navigating the Liminal: An Archaeological Perspective on South African Industrialisation

  • Joanna Behrens
Part of the Contributions to Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


A Sunday morning in March, 1886 ... “The tangled threads of destiny were being detached from the spinning wheel ...” (Crisp 1974 in Ricci 1986: 24) as two gold prospectors, walking the land of the widow Oosthuizen’s farm, Langlaagte, stumbled upon an outcrop of the Main Reef Conglomerate, a banket of gold bearing ore, arcing , virtually uninterrupted, from present-day Randfontein in the west to Springs in the east (Figure 1). The world’ s greatest gold rush had been set in motion. With in months, the first settlement at Ferreira’s Camp had burst across the highveld as thousands streamed towards this newest source of wealth. As canvas tents and reed huts gave way to corrugated iron shacks and bricked structures, Johannesburg burgeoned from a tented camp of 3000 “adventurers” in 1887 to a town of over 100 000 inhabitants by 1896 (van Onselen 1982: 163; Beittel 1992: 197). While uitlanders or immigrants chased wealth and expanded opportunity, white and black farmers across the highveld faced new, often unpredictable choices. An industrial revolution had come: rural , predominantly subsistence, economies were besieged by new forms of capital as thousands were drawn or pushed into the “twilight world of labour migrancy , peri-urban space and industry” (van Onselen 1996: vii).


Late Nineteenth Century Historical Archaeology Urban Isation Guinea Fowl Small Thing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanna Behrens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of the WitwatersrandSouth Africa

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