Researchers during lockdown (2)

View over Swaziland from the mouth of Border Cave (© Public domain)

Thomas Beard is a Master of Science candidate in the Department of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Sciences (University of the Witwatersrand) and a specialist of geoarchaeology. His research themes focus on fabric and spatial analysis. He shares his reflections on the lockdown in South Africa from Johannesburg.

Just before the lockdown, the excavation team was travelling to Border Cave. However, due to protests in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, we could not reach the site and had to turn back a few days later. Upon arriving back in Johannesburg, the entire excavation team was placed in quarantine, after which the international members of the team made plans to leave the country — as they were expecting a lockdown and were afraid that they would not be able to book a flight if they waited too long. Hence the excavation for this year did not happen due to the global pandemic and I was not able to collect a larger sample for my research. When the lockdown began, I was already working from home, as such I can still work on the writing portion of my thesis. However, this affords me the opportunity to improve my writing, refine some of my analytical techniques and engage more with relevant literature. Hence this situation is not an entirely bad one for me and my work, and a lot of archaeological work does not happen in the field. The lockdown has given me the opportunity to put more time into the writing portion of this project, which I am most grateful for.

For now, I cannot go to the university campus to do any work on the assemblages until after the lockdown.

I feel that South Africa’s government and President Cyril Ramaphosa have taken the right steps to stem the spread of the virus. Hence, I feel not only the South African government, but the South African citizens can be proud of a ‘world class’ reaction to this global pandemic.