A journey through the Cradle of Human Culture traces the origins and development of human culture over the past 160 000 years and in the process, it also uncovers what it means to be human. From engraved ostrich eggshells and bone tools to shell beads and the first evidence of drawing, visitors will discover some of humanity’s earliest use of symbols, art and technological innovation. While the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng holds some of the earliest evidence of the human journey starting from about 3.5 million years ago, the Cradle of Human Culture holds evidence of how our ancestors started to manifest abstract thought, to use fire to improve their tool-making skills and to systematically exploit marine resources for their nutrition.
The Cradle of Human Culture includes several archaeological and palaeontological sites in the Western Cape. The three major ones are Diepkloof Rock Shelter in the Cape West Coast (Weskus), Blombos Cave and Pinnacle Point on the Southern Cape Coast. A trip to the Cradle of Human Culture includes more than these three sites and the development and expression of human culture can be traced across all sites.
This is the Artist's Journey:
📍DAY 1: Cape Town
Cape Town is a fusion of diversity. It is a city overflowing with attractions for visitors interested in history, art, culture and a beautiful environment. Table Mountain is one of the most iconic attractions in Cape Town. For modern African art at its finest, visit Zeitz MOCAA and the Norval Foundation.
📍DAY 2: Yzerfontein – Vredenburg
!Khwa ttu is a San Heritage Centre which is located near Yzerfontein. At !Khwa ttu San culture ancient and recent history are presented through a series of exhibitions, videos and presentations. !Khwa ttu provides a platform for contemporary San to share and explore their history and culture with both the San community members and local and international visitors.
The exhibitions and guided experiences engage the body and senses as much as the mind and demonstrate traditional lifestyles, culture and heritage and ancient survival skills of the San. Visitors can also take a drive in an open vehicle past zebra, springbok and other wildlife, through unspoilt fynbos, to a replica San village.
The West Coast Fossil Park has an exceptional interpretation centre displaying well-preserved fossil remains of the animals that inhabited the area about 5-million years ago. The deeply buried fossil bones of now extinct animals such as saber-toothed cats, short-necked giraffes (sivatheres), hunting hyenas and African bears were uncovered in the 1950s during phosphate mining and they are now visible at the dig site in a display unique to South Africa.
This is an unforgettable visit, which will leave no visitor dissatisfied. A newly-built state-of-the-art interpretation centre, housed in an impressive eco-friendly building, will take visitors on a journey illustrating how the landscape in the area changed over the last 5-million years, what life was like when the sivatheres were alive and which other now- extinct animals roamed the land.
📍DAY 3: Elands Bay – Redelingshuys
Elands Bay Cave
Breathtaking San and Khoe rock art has been found in the Elands Bay Cave in the hills above the Elands Bay harbour, about 5km from the centre of the village. This site was first occupied during the Middle Stone Age, dating back more than 80 000 years and intermittently during the Later Stone Age until possibly 500 years ago. Rock paintings include large images of eland, regarded by the San as spiritual creatures, as well as smaller antelope and other animals. Most striking are the many small handprints on the cave walls, some of which are believed to be those of children and young teenagers.
The site is open to the public free of charge but visitors are requested to stay on the demarcated path and not touch the rock art since this may cause irreversible damage to the paintings.
Diepkloof Rock Shelter – not open to the public
Between Elands Bay and Redelinghuys
Diepkloof Rock Shelter takes its name from the nearby Diepkloof stream. It is situated between Elands Bay and Redelinghuys and overlooks the Verlorenvlei wetland. Excavated for over 40 years, this site contains one of the most complete and continuous Middle Stone Age archaeological sequences in Southern Africa. This extremely well preserved record has allowed scientists to reconstruct in detail the lives of our ancestors, the environment in which they thrived and their adaptation over the course of the millennia to an evolving environment. In addition to the Middle and Later Stone Age deposits, the site also contains rock art dating back to San hunter-gatherers, Khoe pastoralists and the colonial period. The sequence of these rock paintings, at times overlapping, shows the long period during which the cave was occupied and used.
Diepkloof Rock Shelter was declared a Provincial Heritage Site in 2015 and it is currently on the tentative serial nomination list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is expected to be declared a World Heritage Site within the next few years.
📍DAY 4: Cederberg
Experience an authentic riel dance, a cultural expression of courtship rituals and joyous dance moves practised by descendants of the San and Khoe people. In recent years this dance form has enjoyed a revival among young and old. Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers - a riel dance group from the small Cederberg settlement of Wupperthal - has enjoyed immense success on the international cultural stage. They won several gold medals at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Los Angeles in 2015.
The Sevilla Rock Art trail is on Traveller’s Rest Farm, 34km from Clanwilliam, on the R364 regional route over the spectacular Pakhuis Pass. The 5km-round trail along the Brandewyn River includes nine fascinating rock art sites, which are some of the finest examples of San rock art in the region. This spiritual-cultural journey is enhanced by the natural surroundings, the rich birdlife, as well as the indigenous wildlife along the trail such as springbok, eland, dassies (rock hyrax) and other small animals. Visitors are required to buy a permit to enter the site at the Traveller’s Rest farm stall.
The Cederberg is dotted with rock art but Truitjieskraal, in the Cape Nature Matjiesrivier Reserve, is arguably one of the most impressive sites. Information boards along the Truitjieskraal interpretive trail provide insights into both the San and Khoe cultures, while at the same time educating visitors on the unique ecosystem surrounding the rock art with its various species of animals and plants. Similarly impressive, located just 20 minutes away from the Matjiesrivier Reserve, is the Elephant Paintings rock art site. These remarkably well-preserved paintings depict three lines of people and a herd of elephants. While it is difficult to exactly date rock paintings, archaeologists estimate that they are at least 1 000 years old.
To visit these two sites, visitors are required to obtain a permit from the Algeria campsite office or nearby Dwarsrivier farm, home to Cederberg Cellars.