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DateOriginal Topic
22nd January 2005Mount Isandlwana's secrets
By Coll
Archaeology of the Isandlwana battlefield has uncovered many artefacts, but I am curious about the actual mountain itself.

Has there been any searches made on the top and sides of the mountain, especially above the shoulder where Younghusband's company made a stand ?.

I'm thinking along the lines of bullet impacts from shots fired by the Zulus at this particular group of soldiers, that maybe pieces are still embedded in the rockface giving an idea of the amount of gunfire these men had to endure while holding this position.

This has probably been covered in a previous topic, but I'll ask anyway.
23rd January 2005Peter Ewart

Details on Younghusband's company's last moments from reliable sources are very sketchy - perhaps one reason why some of the more far-fetched stories have emerged.

If there ever were many shots fired at the company where they are believed to - or said to - have made a stand for a while, the usual Zulu markmanship suggests a fairly wide spray of fire might have occurred.

It isn't Everest, but it's still a pretty big crag, even if the location of that company's presence for a while on the mountain is believed to be known. Any marks made by the Zulu fire could be rather widespread.

Then take 126 years of weather - sun, wind, rain, cold - to make their own mark, as well as several generations of local children scrambling all over it or chucking stones (only two or three small homesteads were present in the immediate vicinity in 1879 but the mission station begun there in Jan 1880 eventually developed into the fair sized community seen today) and you can imagine any marks being obliterated.

Add the continued tramping of grown men in walking boots - especially as the post-isolation tourism aspect has taken hold - as well as the gradual spread of scrub, and it will be seen that searching for bullet marks would be a bit of a needle in a haystack task.

Personally, I'd be all in favour of imposing some sort of limit on ascents allowed up the south slope from the nek, in order to allow time for the unsightly worn footpath up towards Younghusband's supposed "last stand" and the "cave" of the "last of the 24th" to succumb to nature once more, as it is already reminiscent of the most commonly walked Lakeland fells.

23rd January 2005Chris
...and when it's's gone forever...Shame about how humans deface historical sites. Usually when it's too late someone does something about it. Of course, re: the above post, the years immediately after the battle wouldn't be 'historical', and so you can understand that. Still a shame, nonetheless.
23rd January 2005Coll

Thank you for your detailed reply.

As I have never managed to visit the battlefield for myself I can only try visualising through photographs and descriptions in books and on occasions in a documentary, what it is like to actually be there at the time of the battle and also in the present.
This is why this site is extremely valuable to people like myself, where I can mention ideas and projects connected to the Zulu War and get a realistic opinion from fellow enthusiasts.

Thanks again

24th January 2005Neil Aspinshaw

The top of Isandlwana has only a thin spread of earth/grass on the rock, so it is unlikely to reveal artefects. I have some images of it that we took when we climbed the summit which I will e-mail to you.
The problem with "foot" erosion of the saddle is that it is the quickest way from the car park!, human nature really. Mind you previous attempts at trying to give a reasonable perspective a la the old orientation building has left an unsightly concrete base.
Natural erosion is the real enemy there, the local park authorities have made efforts with stone abbutments to hold this back, but inexorably the field is slowly melting away.
24th January 2005Coll

Thankyou very much.

It is sad to hear of such erosion occurring on the Isandlwana battlefield and like Peter said it would be nice to leave the most worn areas to sort of recover naturally.

I'm going to ask something which due to my lack of knowledge probably would be impossible because of the practical and financial aspects that would be involved.

Anyway, here goes.

Could the most affected areas be restored by somehow using materials which compliment this terrain, maybe from a source far away from areas of historical interest ?.

I mean only where people have worn paths, etc.

24th January 2005Peter Ewart

Not exactly sure what you're suggesting. You could probably fill in the footpath or do whatever they do in the National Parks, but I can't see a solution until the footfall is prevented. It is only really visible from due south, where there is a car/coach park (believe it or not!) at the southern edge of the nek/saddle. To be fair, the nek is a huge area and can accommodate it, but it still detracts from the vista from the crag looking south towards "Black's Koppie" and jars historically.

Others might not mind it. Concessions have to be made to 21st century tourism. Others have to live there, we don't. One can't wrap it all in cotton wool, but now that it is a national monument and carefully protected by law, I'd certainly welcome all efforts to preserve its 1879 appearance.

Thankfully, Coll, there are many ways in which it hasn't changed a bit & it is still true that one can stand almost anywhere on the battlefield & imagine yourself in the position of attacker or defender (or, just as fascinating in my case, as a post-1880 missionary at St Vincent's or the native college!).

The crag itself, as you'll have seen from photos, is astonishing because it has a presence. The 1879 photos are still accurate. I still consider the crag itself to be the real memorial, perfect in every way. Its different angles cannot fail to fascinate & I'm sure I can't be the only one who has stared at different photos of the crag constantly comparing angles and positions.

What impressed me on my first visit, despite all the years of reading and staring at photos old and new, was the sheer vastness of the battlefield, even just the eastern slope & the nek/saddle. I wouldn't like to guess how many cricket fields could be fitted into that area alone.

But from far away to the east, or even the west, its silhouette is simpy unbelievable, especially at dusk. "See Naples and die?" See Isandlwana from far out on the plain as the sun goes behind it & you won't care about anywhere else!

25th January 2005Coll

Thanks for your reply.

Yes. I explained it quite badly. I'll try to clarify it by saying the material I mentioned was a type of soil identical to ground cover on the battlefield to be used to build up the worn areas so it merges well with the surrounding terrain and doesn't stand out like a bad repair.

Judging by the way you describe the mountain and the battlefield, it must be as fantastic as I have always imagined it to be, my ambition for as long as I have been interested in this particular battle was to visit the site someday.

Hopefully in the near future.

Thanks again