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Archaeologists Called In As Bones Found on South Africa’s Robben Island

Michael East, Red Revolution

Archaeologists have been called in to excavate a site on the notorious Robben Island in South Africa, the site of the infamous apartheid-era maximum security prison that held Nelson Mandela.

Discovered in February of last year near a kramat (shrine), the bones are believed to be at least 50 years old and may date to prior to the construction of the prison where work was completed in 1961.

“This is absolutely historical I believe, especially because of the island’s multilayered history… Judging from the shallowness of the graves, it is suspected that the site was most likely levelled during construction of the prison in the early 1960s”

Morongoa Ramaboa, museum spokesperson

Prior to the construction of the prison, Robben Island was home to a hospital for the terminally ill, the mentally ill and those suffering from leprosy, the purpose of the hospital changing between 1846 and 1931.

While the finding of remains on the island has become rare in the modern era, there have been reports that prisoners found bones during their time on the island, the prison being known to be built over the graves of leprosy victims.

Museum staff are now searching for an archaeologist to oversee excavation of the site and match the remains with a particular time period in the history of the island. Once excavated the remains will be given an appropriate reburial following idendification.

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