The Coastal Cradle of Mankind


Life 2 000 years ago

The theory that Mankind originated on the South Eastern tip of Africa is supported by evidence found over many years of archaeological studies which includes prehistoric remains of shellfish and edible bulbs, piled in shell middens.

A shell midden is literally an ancient rubbish dump, and many of them can be found throughout the area. Visitors often walk over piles of bone fish hooks, ancient stone tools and plenty of shells, thinking that the shoreline must have been more inland than currently, which is actually the opposite! Food was carried from the shoreline to higher and more protected areas where the families lived in caves and overhangs.

It is believed 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 survive, the global population was reduced from 10 000 to just 600.

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, and the shore line was up to 60km more south than currently. The direct descendants of these original modern humans were the San of Southern Africa, but they also colonised the rest of the world.

So everybody alive today comes from this coast. That is the theory and all the evidence so far supports it. It is a sobering experience to realise that this is where it all began.
Remains of prehistoric man, which may date back over one million years, have been discovered in the area. During the last 10 000 years the area was inhabited by two distinct cultural groups: the San (Bushmen) and Khoi (Hottentots) whose remains are represented by the large piles of shells (middens) found along the coast.