Updated August 2014

One must be prepared to sink to great depths to find old bottles. Rod Comer & Albert Van Rensburg, Pretoria 10/07/1998

We have received numerous requests for more information on where and how to dig, no Antique Bottles website would be complete without this information.

This section of the website is dedicated to dumps and digging. It will include hints and tips for the beginner, what to take with you, how to dig and of course, where to dig.

There will also be input from Gerard de Kamper, a Pretoria collector and professional archaeologist.

There are only five ways of acquiring antique bottles:

I was recently (12 -14 December 2003) invited to join Wade Kidwell and Marcus Schroen for a most interesting and fruitful dig in Kwazulu Natal. The site is massive, probably twice the area of a rugby field with a small, fast flowing stream acting as an automatic bottle cleaning mechanism and washing away the spoil as you dig.

None of us found very much but I was particularly lucky to dig (in 4 seperate pieces each 1 hour apart) a Meldrums champaigne blob top (No. 300) as well as a Lyons Tea double sided enamelled sign (my second ever) in 8/10 condition. Wade is an enamel sign freak so I siezed the opportuinity to swap him for a Goodliff (No. 188) ginger beer which had been dug in Durban. A friend of Marcus (Bob I think his anme was) dug a W. H. Ash ginger beer within minutes of arriving at the dump and this will hopefully enthuse him to start a serious collection.

Before we really got stuck in. This picture shows the height of the embankment ( about 4m) Wade threatening Marcus with dire consequences in the event of Marcus finding a Meldrums Ginger Beer!
Dotted line shows original water-course White arrow indicates where the enamelled sigh was found (below the water-line)
Sometimes even the most unlikely looking sites can yield some truly spectacular finds as these 2 pictures from a December 1995 Pretoria dig by Rod Comer and Albert van Rensburg illustrate.


Antique Bottles.co.za accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action or incident/s brought about by the irresponsible behavior of anyone acting upon the information provided.


What follows is an article kindly submitted by Gerard de Kamper, a relative new-comer to the scene who recently bought the Nick Wellman Collection of ginger beers and who is a professional archaeologist.

Dumps and the Law

The following dumps will be discussed and their locations can be made available to interested parties upon request. Certain dumps will become the subject of a picture presentation (this is something new which we are trying, so please bear with us). If a dump has an icon next to it, simply click and enjoy!

  • The Army Dump
  • Banthulie
  • Benoni
  • Boksburg (1)
  • Boksburg (2)
  • Brumah Lake
  • Buffulo
  • Cape Town
  • Chamdor
  • C.J. Langenhoven
  • Durban
  • Durban Deep
  • ERPM
  • Galeshewe
  • Forest Hill
  • @ Kamfers Dam
  • King Williams Town
  • Langlaagte
  • Lykshuis
  • Mooiriviier
  • Middelburg
  • Mafikeng
  • Ophirton
  • Orange Grove
  • Parys
  • Randfontein
  • Rosentenville
  • Rustenburg
  • Springs
  • Standerton
  • Volksrus
  • Witbank
  • Witsand

These dumps or "middens" as is the correct terminology, are named primarily after their nearest suburb, town, settlement or landmark.

As time unfolds you will learn more about them. Please do not be impatient, remember... the longer you wait, the older the bottles become. Please let us know if you know of any dumps / digging sites earlier than 1925 which are not mentioned above.

Please be carefull to indicate your return e-mail address correctly. We are receiving e-mails to which we cannot respond because of incorrect information.

A bad day's digging is better than a good day's work.

Below are some hints and tips on what and what not to do.

The 10 things that always / never happen have not been completed and we welcome your suggestions based on your pleasant or unpleasant personal experiences. Please contact us on info@antiquebottles.co.za

10 Hints & Tips for beginners (and maybe even experts).

  1. Never dig alone. It is a sad fact of life in our country that virtually all of our dumps are either on the outskirts of town or on the edge of an informal settlement where help may not be forthcoming.
  2. Never leave a hole open unless you are absolutely certain that you can return the next day to bottom and fill in.
  3. Get into the habit of keeping a diary / record of your finds, taking photographs and marking (with stickers) dates & locations on the more memorable items.
  4. Do not smash unwanted bottles nor leave shards lying around. Throw whatever you are not taking home back into the hole before filling in.
  5. Keep fragments / shards of scarcer items. A rare repaired pot-lid in my collection was dug in two "installments".
  6. When digging in dumps deeper than 2m, dig circular rather than square holes. These allow for safer and deeper under-cutting and thereby, a better recovery rate.
  7. Do not try to loosen too much ash with your fork before cleaning out the hole. Never loosen more than 1 fork depth.
  8. Keep a basic first-aid kit handy. Eye-drops, Savlon, Band-aids, Disprin, cotton wool and Mercurichrome.
  9. Drink plenty of liquids even in winter. On a single day's dig during December in Kimberley I drank 9 litres of water. 2l Coke bottles filled with water placed in the deep freeze the night before can be a life-saver.
  10. Report any exciting finds, in strictest confidence to antiquebottles.co.za.

Things that always happen.

  1. You have stumbled across a dump that nobody knows about. Youre first dig is a tremendous success. The next time you go there the whole place is full of dug holes and the dump is exhausted.
  2. You tell a close friend about a dump you have discovered and swear him to secrecy. He tells only one other friend who tells only two other friends who tell only three other friends... Get the picture? (Refer point 1)
  3. You dig half of an ultra rare coloured potlid, throw it away in disgust and the next weekend you find the other half but cannot find the first half which you threw away.
  4. Especially true of Ginger Beers and coloured lipped Codds, if the bottle is lying with its mouth facing you in the hole, the amount of time you take in cleaning around it and digging it out is directly proportional to the likelyhood of it having no back or bottom.
  5. The further you travel to go for a dig, the greater the likelyhood of your forgotten something really important like your fork or wallet.

Things that never happen.

  1. The lead you have followed up on, after having been told of a place where blue-lipped hybrid Codds are lying around on top of an old dump, actually turns out to be quite true.
  2. The old guy who phones you and says he has a big box of really old bottles, some of them say Ginger Beer and some flat lid type objects which say toothpaste has not sold them for next to nothing to someone who arrived a couple of days before you, because you were just too busy to attend to it immeaditely.

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