The Pinnacle Point caves in Mossel Bay in the Southern Cape, regarded by archaeologists as the birthplace of culture, have been the subject of intense study since 1999. Now efforts are underway to have the Pinnacle Point Caves recognised as a world heritage site.
Scientists agree that the world renowned caves contain the earliest evidence of modern human behaviour. The caves will soon be open for public tours. The caves, located in the luxury Pinnacle Point Site Complex, are said to preserve a unique sequences of human occupation from 164 000 years ago to pre-colonial human occupation.
Researchers believe these caves could be where the small, core population that gave rise to all humans alive today, first began to exhibit modern behaviour.
Professor Curtis Marean from the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University says, "We have a number of major results which have gained scientific and media attention. We documented the earliest evidence for people using seafood and that was dated to 164 000 years ago and in those same deposits we documented the earliest evident where people modified ochre. Ochre is a natural occurring pigment, so they were probably using those pigments to paint their bodies, rock surfaces or something like that and that’s an indicator of complex thought."
Earliest evidence of small blade tools
Studies on the caves also show this is where man first used fire to improve the quality of stone tools. Findings also include the earliest evidence of small blade tools.
The caves are also significant because they may provide clues as to how early humans reacted to climate change. Scientists working on the project are developing a continuous picture of the local climate from 400 000 to about 30 000 years ago.