“Oh Africa, long and much-neglected Africa, to what a state of misery art thou sunk?”: a study of the archival and household remains of the Wesleyan Missionary, Thomas Hodgson AD 1823

Moshe, Karyn
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The arrival of missionaries in southern Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was a new experience for both the African people and the English mission representatives. While the effects of Christian missions on indigenous people are explored at length, there is a dearth of literature exploring household archaeology and lived experiences of individual missionaries at mission stations in southern Africa. This research examines the household archaeology of and possible individuals, agents, actions, activities, gender relations, and politics within Hodgson’s Cottage during its period of occupation between May of 1823 and February of 1824. Reverend Thomas Hodgson arrived in southern Africa in 1821 as a representative of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. He spent five years with the Seleka-Rolong under chief Sehunelo, from 1823 until the chief’s death in 1828. The Seleka-Rolong were displaced from their residence by the Difaqane and were still in search of a new home when found by Hodgson in February of 1823. After much urging by the missionary, Sehunelo established a permanent residence at Matlwasse in mid-1823, where a mission was started. Here Hodgson built a cottage which he, his wife, Ann, and their daughter, Mary Ann, occupied from May of 1823 until February of 1824. Subsequent to their departure, the cottage was occupied by African groups whose identity has yet to be established. Hodgson’s Cottage was excavated by Revil Mason in 1964. A weatherproof structure was erected in 1975 to protect what remained of the cottage. By 1999, however, the property was completely vandalized and destroyed. Most of the artefacts recovered during Mason’s excavation are kept at the University of the Witwatersrand and were unsorted and unstudied until the commencement of this research. This study will use extracts from Hodgson’s journals, letters sent by Ann to her family in England as well as selected academic books and papers to interpret the material culture, gender relations, and household archaeology of the site.
A research report submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science to the Faculty of Science, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2021