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Jeffreys Bay – the cradle of mankind

The theory that mankind originated on the south eastern tip of Africa received a boost when the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded R 8 million to a research project for further exploration.

The award was made this week by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the news was confirmed by NMMU botanist Prof Richard Cowling, according to the EP Herald.

The Nelson Bay cave entrance.

The municipal Council is in the process of positioning the Kouga as a heritage tourism destination and the project will further this cause immensely.

Prof Curtis Marean of Arizona University has been working for 11 years along our coastline and the evidence he has already unearthed helped him convince the NSF to support the project.

The evidence includes the prehistoric remains of shellfish and scales of edible bulbs, piled in shell middens.

A shell midden near Jeffreys Bay

A shell midden is literally an ancient rubbish dump, and many of them can be found, even in Jeffreys Bay itself.

The Supertubes Surfing Foundation recently discovered an important midden in the Supertubes Park.

Bone fish hooks, stone tools and an allikreukel shell decoration which was used to brighten up a cave – the earliest example yet of “interior decorating” are all found along our coastline as well.

Marean’s hypothesis is that between 120 000 and 190 000 years ago, Earth was hit by a brutal ice age.

With many parts of the planet already too dry or cold to live, the global population was reduced from 10 000 to just 600.

Rock art can be found all over the southern coast of Africa.

They survived because they lived on the Aghulhas Plain, a coastal area stretching from the Southern Cape into the Eastern Cape, up to Port Elizabeth.

Today, this plain is covered by coastal waters but during that era, with much more sea bound up in ice, the sea level was much lower, and the plain was exposed.

The direct descendents of these original modern humans were the San of Southern Africa, but they also colonised the rest of the world, Cowling explained.

“So everybody alive today comes from this coast. That’s the theory – and all the evidence so far supports it.
“It is a shivering experience to realise that this is where it all began.”

Sites like Klaasies Cave in Tsitsikamma, Thyspunt and in fact this whole “coastal cradle of mankind” therefore has phenomenal significance and protection value, Cowling said.

“We are hoping to get this recognised and for World Heritage Sites to be declared. We can’t have them being turned into golf courses or spots to erect a nuclear plant”.

“It’s about respecting our culture and it’s not just ours – it belongs to the planet, and we are the custodians.”

Once protected, these sites could then help regional municipalities and residents of the area to capitalise on exciting heritage tourism possibilities, he said.

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