200-year-old skull found on East London beach

A human skull found at East London’s Nahoon beach in October could be that of an indigenous woman murdered by a foreign visitor more than two hundred years ago, East London’s district surgeon speculated on Thursday.

The weathered skull has a wound on the left side ? possibly caused by a musket round — and a debate has begun among Eastern Cape academics as to the identity of the murderer.

District surgeon Dr Basil Wingreen said he believed the skull to be that of a female Strandloper.

”There are not prominent brows, indicating a woman and the front is that of a typical Strandloper,” he said.

The Strandloper’s were Khoikhoi who lived in small groups along the Cape coast in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Wingreen estimated the woman to have been between 20 and 30 at the time of her death. He said that natural historian Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer had estimated the skull to be between 200 and 400 years old.

”The penetration wound may possibly be that of a bullet or sharp missile,” he said. ”A low-velocity firearm was used, like a single shot musket.”

The projectile entered on the left side of the skull and exited at the base, leaving a huge hole. Although the jaw bone is missing, the skull had a few well worn teeth, which may be from eating a diet mainly of mielies.

Wingreen assumes that the woman would have been shot by a foreigner to South Africa. ”We had a lot of shipwrecks around that time,” he said.

Deputy-director at the East London Museum Kevin Cole said it was a delightful find.

”The skull appears to be pretty old” compared with others found in the East London area.

”We would need to look at trees and vegetation in the area and possibly send the skull for dating.”

Wingreen hopes to find more human remains. – Sapa

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