An exciting new route in the Western Cape along will provide a fascinating journey back to some of the very earliest human behaviours. Visitors and locals can now explore early culture and how it evolved into the modern day along the Western Cape Cradle of Human Culture route.

Three archaeological sites in the Western Cape – Blombos Cave, Pinnacle Point Site Complex on the south coast and the Diepkloof Rock Shelter on the West Coast – together preserve some of the world’s earliest evidence of evolution of modern human behaviour.

The route is set to officially launch on 11 April 2019. It is an initiative of the Wesgro’s Destination Marketing Unit in partnership with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT), the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) and the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (WHS).

Why the sites are important

The sites are in the process of being nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status for their “unmatched record of paleoenvironmental and human history in an important phase of human evolution, the development of anatomically modern humans”.

Decorated ostrich eggs, shell beads, engraved ochre, bone tools and finely-made flint are just some of the archaeological treasures found at these sites. These artefacts are evidence that people who lived here had symbolic systems, and that they undertook complex tasks.

Linking the beginnings of humankind and human culture

While the beginnings of humankind have been traced to limestone caves in northern Gauteng, the story of humankind continued into the Western Cape.

Michael Worsnip, Managing Director of Maropeng, explains “The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site celebrates the human journey, from our earliest beginnings – to the challenges of our present – to our uncertain future. It celebrates human development, in every shape and form. It is wonderful to now have a new showcase for this diversity, complexity and unity of our species in the Cradle of Human Culture route. It is possible that in our arts and crafts, beliefs and extraordinary ingenuity we can start to uncover some of the defining characteristics of our species.”

“We are hoping that the Cradle of Human Culture will become a tool for all South Africans to enjoy these beautiful sites, explore our common origins, dive into our past and understand what makes us humans. Through this journey, visitors to the Cradle of Human Culture will discover the enormous contribution that South Africa played in making us all humans,” commented the Director for Museums, Heritage and Geographical  Names Services at the Department of Cultural  Affairs and Sport, Dr Mxolisi Dlamuka.

Positioning South Africa as a destination to explore culture and heritage

The partnership between the route and the globally-renowned Cradle of Humankind WHS, is an opportunity to position South Africa globally and attract more visitors.

Minister of Economic Opportunities, Beverly Schäfer, said “By highlighting aspects of our culture and heritage along the route, we are able to provide another layer to our multi-dimensional tourism offering and provide new and unique experiences to a wider range of visitors.”

Sites revealing the early days of human culture can also be found elsewhere in the Western Cape. The West Coast Fossil Park is home to one of the world’s richest concentration of fossils dating back five million years. Adding a new dynamic, we can fast forward to the present and get a glimpse of the not-too distant future at museums like the Zeitz MOCAA with its incredible collection of contemporary art.

Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris, concluded: “South Africa is globally regarded as a place of great heritage significance. Through identifying culturally rich sites in our province, we become a part of the story of the early development of humankind. We are excited to introduce both local and international visitors to the Cradle of Human Culture and hope to welcome many Easter holiday makers following the official launch on 11 April.”

Get more information about the route

To launch the Cradle of Human Culture a micro-site will be developed with information on the experience. A short video, imagery and a booklet will be shared on social media channels and other digital platforms.

Picture copyright of Point of Human Origins.