Cradle of Human Culture route will launch in Western Cape in April

  • Monday, 04 March 2019
  • Linda Chivell

Cradle of Human Culture route to launch in Western Cape banner

Some of the earliest forms of evidence of human societies and customs can be found along the Western Cape, and the Cradle of Human Culture route aims to take locals and tourists on a journey of archaeological discovery.

The route encompasses a number of sites and attractions that offer some of the earliest evidence of the evolution of modern human behaviour. These include three archaeological sites in the Western Cape: Blombos Cave, Pinnacle Point Site Complex on the south coast, and the Diepkloof Rock Shelter on the Cape West Coast, who collectively house some of the world’s earliest evidence of human evolution.

These sites are in the process of being nominated for World Heritage Site status.

Each site is home to ancient artefacts such as ornately-decorated ostrich eggs, marine shell beads, engraved ochre, bone tools, and finely-made bifacial points, sharp stone tools that were used by early humankind.

Blombos Cave drawing with ochre pencil on silcrete stone Credit Craig Foster

UNESCO has nominated these sites because they hold an “unmatched record of palaeoenvironmental and human history in an important phase of human evolution, the development of anatomically modern humans”.

“South Africa is globally regarded as a place of great heritage significance. Through identifying culturally rich sites in our Province, we become a part of the story of the early development of humankind. We are excited to introduce both local and international visitors to the Cradle of Human Culture, and hope to welcome many Easter holidaymakers following the official launch.”

The three sites that may receive World Heritage Site Status and may feature on the Cradle of Human Culture route:

Blombos Cave


Southern Cape’s Blombos Cave artefact thought to be the earliest evidence of human drawing. In a cave a long time ago someone took a crayon and left a series of red criss-crossed lines on a piece of grindstone. What the purpose of those lines was has been lost in the march of 73,000 years of human evolution, but what researchers do believe is that those faint marks of ochre are humankind’s earliest evidence of a drawing.This discovery was believed to be the earliest evidence of a drawing predates previously found drawings from Europe and Southeast Asia by a least 30,000 years and, according to researchers, this provides further evidence that the cradle of humankind’s cognitive development, which birthed art, lies in Africa.

Pinnacle Point

Pinnacle Point
Located in the south of Mossel Bay, excavations of this site began in 2000 and revealed that Middle Stone Age societies lived in the area between 170 000 and 40 000 years ago.
It is also the site where the oldest evidence of heat treatment of rock to make stone tools has been recorded. Pinnacle Point is declared a Provincial Heritage Site and has a cave located in the area.

Diepkloof Rock Shelter

Also, a Provincial Heritage Site, the Diepkloof Rock Shelter has had various evidence of human life found in it, such as ostrich eggshells with engravings and Paleolithic tools.

Historically, ostrich eggshells are known to have been used by African hunter-gatherers as a light-weight and strong flask or canteen to store and transport various fluids, usually water. The Ostrich eggshells fragments of Diepkloof Rock Shelter (Western Cape) represent one of the earliest evidence of graphic tradition, they are more than 40,000 years old! You can see the replicas of the whole eggs.

diepkloof ostrich egg shells

The culture experience is, however, not limited to these sites only, and stretches across all six regions of the province. It includes other sites such as the West Coast Fossil Park – home to one of the world’s richest concentrations of fossils, dating back five million years; and the Zeitz MOCAA, with its collection of contemporary art.

“The Cradle of Human Culture will provide a fascinating journey back to some of the very earliest human behaviours. By highlighting these aspects of our culture and heritage, we are able to provide another layer to our multi-dimensional tourism offering and provide new and unique experiences to a wider range of visitors.”

The Director for Museums, Heritage and Geographical Names Services and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Dr Mxolisi Dlamuka says that the route will showcase the immense role South Africa played in the evolution of humankind.

“We are hoping that the Cradle of Human Culture will become a tool for all South Africans to enjoy these beautiful sites, explore our common origins, dive into our past and understand what makes us humans. Through this journey, visitors to the Cradle of Human Culture will discover the enormous contribution that South Africa played in making us all humans.”

The Cradle of Human Culture route will be launched in the Western Cape on April 11, bringing a new experience of the ‘dawn of mankind’ to visitors.




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