Historic Graves in South Africa

As a World Heritage Site, The Cradle of Humankind, 50km northwest of Johannesburg is made up of caves such as the Sterkfontein Caves. The caves were the discovery place of a 2.3million year old fossil. The fossil, founded a while back in 1947, was nicknamed ‘Mrs Ples’. Near to this site is the Rising Star Cave System which contains the Dinaledi Chamber, where a number of fossil skeletons were discovered. In fact it has more than 1 500 H. naledi fossils, and historic graves in South Africa with Homo Naledi provide evidence of the world’s first burial site.

Historic Graves in South Africa

Braamfontein Cemetery in South Africa houses many historic graves

Graves in South Africa regarded as historic offer exciting opportunities for exploration, and the city of Cape Town, which is already a major tourist attraction, also offers diverse sites for cemetery enthusiasts. The first noteworthy burial in Cape Town was that of Rev. Joan van Arckel. This is because a century ago in the Cape settlement, prominent people were buried within the church. Rev. van Arckel was laid to rest at this place of worship in 1666.

There are a number of cemeteries in Cape Town which are home to the remains of some prominent South Africans.

  • The 1st prime minister of the Cape Colony – Sir John Molteno – he rests a cemetery in Claremont.
  • Sir Thomas Upington is buried at a cemetery in Maitland and was once premier of the Cape Colony.
  • John X Merriman – a statesman who served as prime minister of the Cape Colony. He died near Stellenbosch.


Pilgrims Rest – the Setting for the most Intriguing Cemetery

The famous Robbers Grave is found near the pass at Pilgrims Rest, a village linked to the pioneering days of the discovery of gold.

Pilgrims Rest historic grave is so fascinating that 2 historians have researched the marked graves in the cemetery and have made a small booklet, ‘The Historic Cemetery of Pilgrim’s Rest’ which can be bought in the Pilgrim’s Rest Information Centre. Also, a board-map has been erected outside the graveyard and the grave numbers correspond to the information in this interesting booklet.

Historic Graves in South Africa – The Mystery of ‘Robber’s Grave’

This historic cemetery has to be one of the most fascinating in South Africa, because apart from being the resting place of pioneers of the gold rush as well as some of the residents of the mining village, it is also home to the Robber’s Grave – one of the most famous graves in the country.

What is fascinating is that the grave lies at a north-to-south angle, as apposed to the usual east-to-west angle. Legend has it that it could be a highwayman who robbed a stage coach of gold or it could be a man who was caught tent robbing. The man was warned never to return to the goldfields again. However he did try to return, but was spotted on Cemetery Hill, shot and killed. Whoever he was, the position of his grave tells you that those who buried him had no respect for him, and he was branded a criminal. Nobody really has too much information on who this robber was, but the booklet gives suggestions on who people believe it was.

The oldest recorded grave in the Braamfontein Cemetery is that of Bazett Jarvis Blenkins, a British colonial. He was just 23 when he died in 1874 by being crushed by a massive quartzite boulder.

Ongoing Maintenance to Ensure South Africa’s Heritage Preserved

South Africa has a dramatic but rich history, and historic graves and historical sites, if they are well preserved and maintained, will continue to give us an intriguing glimpse into the lives of those who have contributed to its illustrious past.

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All info was correct at time of publishing