Time-travelling in the Cape
Tue, 14 Nov 2006
While most visitors to the Western Cape are happy to explore the Garden Route, the wine routes, the whale route and more, there’s one route that has yet to be fully ‘discovered’, and yet it’s probably the most unique of the lot — the route back in time.
While the cradle of humankind complex near Sterkfontein [but is it? See here] has done much to highlight South Africa’s unique position on the map of human prehistory, the fact is that the Western Cape’s incredible scale of history has yet to be fully exploited.
From 450-million-year-old glacier tracks in the Cederberg (try to imagine that on a blistering Cederberg summer’s day), to dinosaur graveyards and traces of the earliest human beings, the region has a wealth of sites waiting to be properly discovered by visitors.
There are one million years of archaeology here, says Professor John Parkington of the UCT Archaeology department, pointing to shell middens along the coastlines and metres-deep evidence of human habitation in mountain caves.
But most remarkable of all is the fact that the very origin of our species is written on the rock walls of the Cederberg.
Bigger brain, better art
For while archaeological sites further up the continent contain examples of our ancestors, and possibly the mythical “missing link” between us and the apes, it’s in the Western Cape that we find the first examples of homo sapiens, our species or literally “people like us”.