Dumps and the Law

What does the law say about digging historical dumps?

Most people digging dumps, for bottles, as well as people using metal-detectors on battlefields and old dwellings don't realize that there is a law protecting these historical resources. What they further don't realize that participating in these hobbies, without the necessary permits, is seen as a crime.

In South Africa the law protecting dumps is the National Heritage Resources Act, Act 25 of 1999. This law, as published in the Government Gazette on the 28th of April 1999, repeals the National Monument Act, Act 28 of 1969. The part of this act that has an influence on dump digging is Chapter II, Part 2.35 paragraph 4.

This paragraph states that:

"No person may, without a permit issued by the responsible heritage resources authority-

  1. destroy, damage, excavate, alter, deface or otherwise disturb any archaeological or palaeontological site or meteorite;
  2. destroy, damage, excavate. remove from its original position, collect or own any archaeological or palaeontological material or any meteorite;
  3. trade in, sell for private gain, export or attempt to export from the Republic any category of archaeological or palaeontological material or object, or any meteorite;
  4. bring into or use at an archaeological or palaeontological site any excavation equipment or any equipment which assists in the detection or recovery of metals or archaeological or palaeontological material or objects, or use such equipment for the recovery of meteorites'

There must be kept in mind that the artifacts (bottles, etc) recovered in these dumps are seen as archaeological material or objects and falls perfectly into this Act.

In plainer terms this Act forbids the digging of dumps without a permit issued to do so. The procedure is as follows.

  1. The person (each one) who wants to dig a dump must apply for a permit from AMALVA in Natal and from SAHRA (The South African Heritage Resource Agency) in all other provinces.
  2. These bodies would most likely want an archaeologist to make a survey of the site.
  3. The archaeologist will write a report to the bodies stating, according to him or her, the importance or unimportance of the site.
  4. Based on this report SAHRA or AMALVA will issue a permit or not.

The complications of breaking this Law can imply a fine of up to R500 000 or three years imprisonment.

All the above sounds like a whole lot of trouble and difficulty to go through. It must be said though that the two bodies are mostly very rational about these sites if you follow there rules. These rules would most likely be to carry a permit and respecting any research that they order on the dump before further destruction.

If you would like more information on this specific area of research (dumps) or statements of the Law on these resources mail Gerard de Kamper (Archaeologist) at gdekamper@postino.up.ac.za