Published on March 7, 2014
162,000 years of holidays in Mossel Bay Discover South Africa’s Garden Route Discover our beginnings ! ! ! Tours Discover South Africa’s Garden Route: its beaches and forests, its attractions and adventures. And while you’re here, discover the land where modern human behaviour began: the very birthplace of culture and complex technology. Attractions Itineraries Background
Peter Nilssen: Why archaeology? ! For me, the archaeological record is like a road map of human development with signposts that indicate where we've been, what we've done, what has worked, and what hasn’t. Our current situation on the planet clearly indicates that what we are doing doesn’t work- hence the death of our oceans, the death of species, the destruction of our fellow humans, the destruction of nature, and the insane belief that we are all separate, and that we need to kill each other and everything around us in order to survive. Our present condition is overwhelmingly indicative of a dysfunctional and highly destructive species - a society hell-bent on devastation. We are the single most dangerous animal roaming the earth. While the Middle Stone Age was almost certainly never a rosy time for humans, people at that time were clearly doing something that worked, something that allowed our species to survive a near extinction event - the genetic bottleneck - sometime between 150, 000 and 200,000 years ago. So what were they doing? The archaeological record shows us that there were two major components of human behaviour that allowed us to survive. The first was technology (which indicates cognitive abilities) and the second was a belief system based on a close connection with the natural and animal world, and on a reverence for life - which I think of as ‘intuition’ or ‘spirituality.’ That belief system is still alive - barely - amongst the last remaining hunter gatherers such as the Australian aborigines and the San of the Kalahari. The rest of us have excelled in technology, but - on the whole - we’re spiritually bankrupt. In my opinion it is the absence of the second behavioural attribute that has brought humanity to its knees. Instead of a connection to the planet that supports us, we worship power, and we’re allowing ourselves to be led over the cliff. The significance of the archaeological record then, specifically the record of the Middle Stone Age, is that it is the record of the origins of all humans alive on the planet today. It is therefore a potentially powerful catalyst for unifying a desperately divided species. If a belief system grounded in a reverence for all forms of life - and in the interconnectivity of animals (including humans) and the environment - is the thing that pulled us through that near extinction event nearly 200,000 years ago, then maybe we should take cognisance of the signposts on our road map, and start mending the hole that we created when we stopped living in nature - when we started trying to live on top of it, and trying to manipulate and control the planet’s finite resources for our short-term gain. Our progression through the Middle Stone Age speaks to us all as one - rather than to our more recent histories of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ ! Peter Nilssen is the archaeologist who introduced the Pinnacle Point Caves to science: he’s also the leader of Mossel Bay’s Point of Human Origin Experiences “The significance of the archaeological record then, specifically the record of the Middle Stone Age, is that it is the record of the origins of all humans alive on the planet today. “It is therefore a potentially powerful catalyst for unifying a desperately divided species.“
162,000 years of holidays in Mossel Bay ! Why did our ancestors live in Mossel Bay? And how? And what did they learn here? These are among the central questions which a team of more than forty scientists from around the world – members of the SACP4 Project - are working to answer. The South African Coastal Palaeoclimate, Palaeoenvironment, Palaeoecology, and Palaeoanthropology (SACP4) Project is led by Curtis Marean, an associate director of the Institute of Human Origins and professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. It produced its first significant paper in 2007: ‘Early human use of marine resources and pigment in South Africa during the Middle Pleistocene’ appeared in the peerreviewed publication ‘Nature.’ It was the result of nearly seven years of study. Prof. Marean and his co-authors wrote that “Genetic and anatomical evidence suggests that Homo sapiens arose in Africa between 200 and 100 thousand years ago.” In Mossel Bay, they said, they’d found the earliest evidence for systematic harvesting of seafood, and the earliest evidence for a complex stone tool technology in which tiny, beautiful and precisely-made stone blades were embedded into other materials (probably wood or bone) to create advanced tools that refined our ability as hunters. The archaeological evidence had been discovered by Jonathan Kaplan – a consulting archaeologist and the director of the Agency for Cultural Resource Management - and PhD. student (now Dr.) Peter Nilssen during a routine survey for an environmental impact study of the land that would become the Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort. Dr. Nilssen called in Professor Marean, and their preliminary findings were sufficiently promising to warrant a series of test excavations. Finance was raised from various international organisations (including South Africa’s National Research Foundation), and that first dig was so successful that it lead to another, and another, and another – and the work continues today. (The bulk of the US$ 10 million that’s gone into the Project so far has come from the USA’s National Science Foundation, and the Hyde Family Trust - and South Africa’s Iziko Museums, Mossel Bay’s Dias Museum Complex, and the people of Mossel Bay have lent considerable support, too.) Later discoveries showed that this is also where humankind first learned to treat silcrete with heat in a controlled way – and so transform a rather poor quality raw stone into a top quality material from which to make our tools; and that this is where we first worked with the pigment ochre (the earliest form of paint) – which indicates that this is where symbolic behaviour – culture began. But the caves at Pinnacle Point – where the scientists have concentrated their work – are important for another reason, too: studies into Carbon and Oxygen isotopes embedded in dripstone formations formed during times when the Caves were sealed off to the outside world have revealed detailed information about the water and climate regimes that reigned over the period 400,000 to 30,000 years ago. Put together with the evidence of human habitation starting 162,000 years ago, this information could hold clues as to how we survived climate change in the past – and what we might face in the future. ! More information: www.visitmosselbay.co.za/archaeology
Country Life March 14 Middle Stone Age Archaeology in Mossel Bay: Tours ! Point of Human Origins Experiences, Pinnacle Point Caves, in the company of Dr. Peter Nilssen (Dr. Nilssen and his colleague, Jonathon Kaplan, identified the site for science, and Dr. Nilssen introduced it to the scientific community. www.humanorigin.co.za • Each Point of Human Origins Experience includes an in-depth lecture with PowerPoint presentation on the modern human story, as well as a walking visit to Pinnacle Point Cave 13B • The walk includes a series of steep stairways, and requires a mild degree of physical fitness • Maximum group size: 12 guests • Duration: 3 - 4 hours ! Oystercatcher Trail, Mossel Bay to Gouritz River. www.oystercatchertrail.co.za • Guided, fully catered 4- or 5-night walking trails with accommodation in luxury, beachfront properties • Includes Point of Human Origins Experiences, as well as visits to San-period shell middens and stone fish traps ! Middle Stone Age Archaeology in Mossel Bay: Attractions ! ! Great Brak River Museum www.ourheritage.org.za • Local history, photography, Human Origins Exhibition Cape St. Blaize Cave www.humanorigin.co.za • Popular view site • Site of one of South Africa’s earliest scientific archaeological excavations
Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex Itineraries ! ! Modern Human Origins: Culture Route Day 1 - Plettenberg Bay: • Morning: Marine safari (whale- and dolphin watching) with Ocean Safaris or Ocean Adventures • Afternoon: Robberg Nature Reserve, Nelson’s Bay Cave (inhabited by early modern humans from about 120,000 years ago) ! Day 2 - Knysna: • Morning: Knysna forests (Jubilee Creek and Millwood Mining Museum and Tea Garden on the site of South Africa’s first modern-era gold rush - or the Dalene Matthee Memorial and Circles in a Forest Hiking Trail in the Knysna section of the Garden Route National Park) with Tony Cook Adventures’ Knysna Forest Tours • Afternoon: galleries: • Knysna Fine Art (one of SA’s top commercial galleries) and the Old Gaol & Millwood House Museums ! Day 3 - Oudtshoorn • Morning: Cango Caves Heritage Tour • Afternoon: CP Nel Museum (local history; the story of Oudtshoorn’s feather booms; collections of music instruments & vehicles; Jewish Museum); Klein Karoo Wine Route ! Day 4 - Mossel Bay • Morning: Point of Human Origins Experience, Pinnacle Point Caves (earliest evidence for modern human behaviour) • Afternoon: Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex (Maritime Museum, Shell Museum, Post Office Tree, Dias’ Spring, Braille Trail and field garden); Great Brak River Museum (local history, photography, Human Origins Exhibition)
Garden Route Game Lodge Itineraries ! ! Modern Human Origins: Nature Route Day 1 - Tsitsikamma • Morning: Tsitsikamma Treetop Canopy Tour • Afternoon: Storms River Mouth in the Garden Route National Park, Tsitsikamma Section ! Day 2: Plettenberg Bay / Knysna • Morning (Plettenberg Bay): Radical Raptors (birding; rehabilitation centre; falconry displays) • Afternoon (Knysna): Ocean Odyssey (marine safari; whale- and dolphin watching) ! Day 3: Oudtshoorn • Whole day: Swartberg Nature Reserve World Heritage Site (Cango Caves, fynbos, birding, Swartberg Pass, Meiringspoort, etc.) ! Day 4: Mossel Bay • Morning: Morning: Point of Human Origins Experience, Pinnacle Point Caves (earliest evidence for modern human behaviour) • Afternoon: Safari game drive at Botlierskop Private Nature Reserve (Great Brak River) or Garden Route Game Lodge (Albertinia) !
Skydive Mossel Bay Itineraries ! ! Modern Human Origins: Adrenaline Route Day 1: Tsitsikamma/ Plettenberg Bay • Morning (Tsitsikamma): Face Adrenalin - world’s highest commercial bungi jump • Afternoon (Plettenberg Bay): Dolphin Adventures – ocean kayaking ! Day 2: Knysna / Sedgefield • Morning (Knysna): Harkerville Forest mountain bike trails • Afternoon (Sedgefield): hiking trails at Goukamma Nature Reserve ! Day 3: Oudtshoorn • Morning: Oudtshoorn Ballooning • Afternoon: Cango Caves Adventure Tour ! Day 4: Mossel Bay • Morning: Point of Human Origins Experience, Pinnacle Point Caves (earliest evidence for modern human behaviour) • Afternoon: Billeon Sandboarding – on the Dragon Dune (longest sandboarding dune in South Africa) or tandem skydiving with Skydive Mossel Bay
Concept: Brett Petzer Mossel Bay’s proposed Gateway Museum ! The old quarry next to the St. Blaize Cave at The Point, Mossel Bay, has been identified as the preferred position for a Gateway Museum that will serve a number of the country’s most important Middle Stone Age sites - all of which support the argument for South Africa as the birthplace of modern human behaviour. This museum is currently in planning: the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is complete, and the Record of Decision (ROD) has been issued. The Pinnacle Point Caves have been declared a Provincial Heritage Site. This is a first step towards gaining World Heritage status for all of South Africa’s important Middle Stone Age sites: ! • Pinnacle Point – Mossel Bay. Occupied between about 162,000 and 40,000 years ago. Earliest evidence for modern human behaviour; first systematic harvesting of marine resources; regular use of pigment; first use of heat treatment of materials for stone tools. One of only three sites in Africa with items from human occupation older than 120,000 years. The site was declared a Provincial Heritage Site on 14, December 2012. • Blombos Cave - near Stilbaai. Beads made from Nassarius shells, bone tools, and ochre engraved with abstract designs and dating back to about 75,000 years ago. More recent finds include the famous ‘artist’s palette’ - an abalone shell complete with ochre and upper grindstone from about 100,000 years ago • Klasies River Caves - near Humansdorp. Occupied from about 120,000 years ago. First investigated in 1967, they’ve yielded significant information on stone tool technology, and how food was gathered and settlements were organised in the Middle Stone Age. Finds include remains of anatomically modern humans from 110,000 years ago (compare this with Eurasia, where anatomically modern humans appear only about 60,000 years ago) • Border Cave – Lebombo Mountains, KwaZulu-Natal. Occupied from about 87,000 years to 30,000 years ago. Finds include the complete skeleton of a young child as well as remains of at least five adult hominins, and of more than 40 different species of mammal (including three extinct species). • Sibudu Cave – near Tongaat. Occupied intermittently from about 77,000 to 38,000 years ago. Finds include the earliest example of the use of bedding (77,000 years ago) and of the use of heat-treated mixed-compound glues (72,000 years ago), as well as a bone arrow and a bone needle from about 61,000 years ago. • Diepkloof Rock Shelter – near Elands Bay. Occupied from about 75,000 years ago. Finds include decorated ostrich eggshell containers, and exceptionally well preserved organic matter (grass, seeds, fruit, wood). ! • The Wonderwerk Cave near Kuruman; Elands Bay Cave on the West Coast; Klipgat Cave near Walker Bay; and the Howieson’s Poort Rock Shelter near Grahamstown might also be included in the application for World Heritage status
Mossel Bay Tourism • Telephone: +27(0)44 691 2202 • www.visitmosselbay.co.za • firstname.lastname@example.org • Corner Market & Church Streets, Mossel Bay ! Point of Human Origin Experiences The Oystercatcher Trail • Telephone: +27(0)44 699 1204 • Mobile: +27(0)82 550 4788 • www.humanorigin.co.za • www.oystercatchertrail.co.za • email@example.com • Bonito Street, Boggomsbaai, Mossel Bay • Point of Human Origins Experiences are managed by The Oystercatcher Trail ! Great Brak River Museum • Telephone: +27 (0)44 620-3338 • www.ourheritage.org.za • firstname.lastname@example.org • 13 Amy Searle Street, Great Brak River, Mossel Bay ! Mossel Bay Municipality • Office of the Municipal Manager • www.mosselbay.gov.za • email@example.com • Telephone: +27 (0)44 044 606 5000 • 101 Marsh Street, Mossel Bay, Western Cape Province, South Africa Pinnacle Point Beach & Golf Resort Great Brak River Museum ! Pinnacle Point Cave 13B Point of Human Origins Experiences Contact us
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