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DateOriginal Topic
22nd May 2005"Cairns" map in "Hill of the Sphinx"
By Rob D
On the map of the Isandlwana cairns on p78 of htis book there is what appears to be an isolated cairn on the western edge of the map, just south of the "line of the modern road" and at about 1000 yards from the nearest other cairn.

Is this a printing error in the book or does it represent a real burial cairn, and if so, is there any indication of who might be buried there?

22nd May 2005Julian Whybra
This is not an error but represents a real cairn according to David.
22nd May 2005Mike McCabe
The many burial, and reburial, efforts since the battle have left an extensive legacy of cairns - most original and genuine, some restored and enlarged almost 'cosmetically' after episodes of damage or to re-instate cairns occasionally demolished. FWD Jackson has, he makes clear, provided a map that effectively summarises a more detailed map of the cairns surviving and locatable at the time of the source base map being drawn. If we are to take the re-burial records of Alfred Boast into acount, there are many others, including at outlying sites now obscured by vegetation (or taken away by erosion) and those on the fringes that are less often visited and do not always receive attention as cairns are periodically 'white washed'. Some of the latter are effectively 'lost'; their stones losing the last traces of the original whitewashing, and the sites fading from memory. Also, some cairns are effectively 'salvage' sites, set up to cover remains washed up by erosion, and other causes. To the approximate North West of the cairn referred to above is that group of two cairns by the road bridge (one bigger than the other) which some guides like to assert are the 'Engineer Cairn'. However, there is no actual evidence trail that this is a valid attribution. Just try stopping them though.
24th May 2005Rob D
Thanks for your replies.
Would it be reasonable to draw the following conclusions from the location of the cairn (or cairns) north of the old road close to the river?
1. People who had left the camp before the right horn deployed to block the road had later been intercepted by units which moved further west before swinging south.
2. Some of the horsemen who went around isandlwana to the west in a delaying action were forced away from the camp by the Zulus and then pursued towards the river and the road.
24th May 2005Mike McCabe
Hard to say.
Except in few cases (eg Younghusband) it's difficult to attribute specific cairns to specific actions - and vice versa.
The cairns correspond roughly with the concentrations of bodies - mostly as originally buried or as found/reburied by Alfred Boast. But, there have also been various more recent attempts to tidy up the cairns, and what we see today as the fewer, but prominent, surviving whitewashed cairns are a mixture of authentic originals and others placed more recently (a small minority). Cast around on the fringes for long enough, and more possible cairn sites can be found - some either not recently whitewashed, or that may never have been whitewashed.Some cairns cover graves deliberately sited on higher ground where rainwash was less likely. These are more likely to have been as part of a reburial effort.
Another feature is that some cairns appear to have been sited where digging was easiest, through a thicker layer of soil overburden covering the rock beds, enabling bodies/remains to e moved to the burial site. This, and the placing (in November 1879) by the new Bishop of Maritzburg of the cairn topped with an iron cross, appears to have influenced the siting of the Colonial Volunteer Cemetery, for example.
So, it's not entirely clear what the layout of cairns is telling us, there also being a varied number of bodies under each.