The much earlier Provincial Heritage Cape St. Blaize Cave in Mossel Bay is an important archaeological site, and a popular point for whale and dolphin watching. It is situated in the cliffs below the Cape St Blaize Lighthouse.
The cave is significant for a number of reasons: George Leith excavated it in1888 (making it one of South Africa’s earliest archaeological excavations). More importantly, though, the cave has revealed middens laid down by man’s early ancestors during much of the middle stone age. Who the people were is yet to be determined. There is still much evidence to be unlocked and it is hoped that further excavations will be started in the near in the future.
After debating for decades, paleoanthropologists now agree there is enough genetic and fossil evidence to suggest that Homo sapiens evolved in Africa ca. 200,000–160,000 years ago. The caves at Pinnacle Point, nearby, have reviled much more evidence pertaining to an earlier time and this evidence stretches back 164,000 years. In December 2012, the provincial heritage resources authority Heritage Western Cape declared the Pinnacle Point group of caves a provincial heritage site in the terms of Section 27 of the National Heritage Resources Act.
According to research which Professor Curtis Marean and his team published in 2007, this is probably where the small, core population that gave rise to all humans alive today first began to exhibit significantly modern behaviour: the systematic harvesting of food from the sea, the use of complex bladelet technology, and the use of ochre for symboling.
Most of the evidence comes to an end some 40,000 years ago and then reappears about 12,000 years ago with the retreat of the last ice age. There is convincing evidence that the latter are the San or Bushman people.
The missing evidence from 40,000 years to 12,000 years ago lies buried under the sea which during this period was an exposed landmass extending up to 140 kilometres from present day Mossel Bay. Inland evidence is minimal as during this period, much of southern Africa was an extremely cold desert.
Modern human behaviour is thought to have begun in the period from about 200,000 years ago evidenced by findings in other cave centres where further extensive development took place.
In several areas along our coastal corridor, other caves reveal findings mainly dating from about 3,000 years ago to the pre-colonial age (i.e. pre-1488).
There is some debate on where the Khoe people came from. In archaeological terms, these earliest herders in southern Africa introduced sheep and pottery. Some archaeologists and linguists believe that the Khoe (people who also spoke a click language like the Bushman) lived much further north towards East Africa (Zambia, Tanzania). They have been found historically in the Kalahari, Caprivi, Southern Zimbabwe and parts of South Africa. They arrived in the Cape some 2,100 to 2,200 years ago.
The Western Cape was not originally home to the Bantu who originally came from West Africa around 4,000 years ago and who arrived in the northern Transvaal some 1,500 years ago.
Frequently-quoted words of writer and philosopher George Santayana – “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Come and see the progress we have made.