Science doesn’t dig graffiti as it destroys evidence of ancient life
‘Education, awareness key to saving evidence of human, animal life dating back hundreds of thousands of years’
“Miracle” is a term not often thrown around in academic circles, but when it comes to the hundreds of fossilised tracks — human and animal — embedded in rocks across SA’s coastline, it seems appropriate.
First, they’re old. Exceptionally old. The youngest are about 30,000 years old, and most of the fossil trackways are between 90,000 and 130,000 years old. But there are examples of fossils that are 400,000 years old and 720,000 years old (at Dana Bay and inside a cave at Pinnacle Point, both outside Mossel Bay, respectively).
Then it’s how they are formed. They’re made from sand which, due to rain or dew or other moisture, is now a slightly different texture from the dry sand that covers it, effectively separating the tracks from the sand that surrounds them. Those moist patches then get buried and, over time, more and more layers of sand pile on top, burying those tracks deeper — and the quicker the better because the tracks stay fresh and well preserved. Over time, water percolates down, eventually turning that sand into cement-like rock...