Western Cape rocks the Cradle with new voyages into human origins
The province hopes to cash in on its ancient history by launching the Cradle of Human Culture
If scientists are to be believed, Homo sapiens took their first steps in the Western Cape.
Now the province is hoping to cash in on its ancient history by launching the Cradle of Human Culture, a project on which it has teamed up with the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng.
“It is a journey that will take you back hundreds of thousands of years to not only learn about the origin of human culture, but to learn about yourself as individuals and us as the collective,” cultural affairs MEC Anroux Marais said at Thursday’s launch.
The Cradle of Human Culture outlines routes along the western and southern coasts of the Western Cape, and connects 13 palaeontological and archaeological sites to the Cradle of Humankind.
The routes prominently feature the Diepkloof rock shelter on the west coast, Blombos Cave in Stilbaai and Pinnacle Point near Mossel Bay.
The three locations, which are in the process of being nominated as World Heritage Sites, are home to some of the earliest evidence of humans using symbols, human drawings and heat treatment of rock to create stone tools.
The relics date back 60,000 to 70,000 years, and include ostrich eggshells with etchings that functioned as water flasks, and stones marked with lines of red ochre.
While Diepkloof and Blombos are under preservation and closed to the public, exhibitions have been installed around the province so visitors can see artefacts that were taken from the shelter and cave. Virtual reality experiences at interpretation centres will allow guests to take headset tours of the sites they cannot enter.
Although the focus is largely on the artefacts, the Cradle of Human Culture is meant to transcend physical discoveries.
“We are now on the cutting edge of the logical consequence of the Cradle of Human Culture, which is learning to bridge cultural differences and learning to become one people,” said premier Helen Zille.
The new tourist attraction is expected to bring more travellers and jobs to the western and southern Cape regions.
“Culture and heritage activities rank as sixth among the top tourism activities in the province, ahead of eating out, entertainment and even shopping,” said Beverley Schäfer, MEC of economic opportunities.
Additional route sites in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are in the early stages of planning.
To close out her last launch event as premier, Zille said: “This great tourism offering will enable the world to come home, and leave understanding why we are still in the forefront of humanity.”