Even though scientist Curtis Marean made the Mossel Bay caves, and in particular the Pinnacle Point caves, internationally famous in 2000 with his archaeological findings, the historic significance of these caves have been known for much longer.
It is documented that both JH Power and George Leith conducted archaeological research at Cape St Blaize, dating as far back as 1888, followed by an excavation by a scientist named Goodwin in 1932.
It was only in 1997 that the caves came under the spotlight again, when an environmental scope was done in the area in response to the golf course development proposal for the area above the cliffs. They apparently 'discovered' 28 archaeological sites, 15 of which are caves or rock shelters.
In 1999, Marean and fellow scientist Nilssen visited Pinnacle Point and Mossel Bay to survey the area and investigate
the potential of the sites. Four caves were selected for test excavation. They returned the following year for another survey and in July 2000, their test excavations began.
Adv De Waal Lubbe, the man behind the interesting website, www.mosselbayman.co.za, sent in a fascinating extract of an article he came across.
The article, written about Mossel Bay in 1929, was originally published by The South African Museum and is called 'The Stone Age Cultures of South Africa', by AJH Goodwin & C van Riet Lowe.
It reads as follows: "Mossel Bay - Probably one of the richest sites in this part of the Cape System is that discovered by Mr JH Power at Mossel Bay. The town of Mossel Bay is situated on a promontory ending in Cape St Blaize. The whole of this promontory forms an extremely rich archaeological field, and has been inhabited for some thousands of years by various peoples.
"Along the central keel of this projection of land runs the main road to Cape Town; a little south of this, and about six miles from the Mossel Bay station, are a number of shifting sand-dunes, situated high up on the shore. Beneath these are a large number of implements in various stages of manufacture.
"Mr Power made several visits to the site and succeeded in taking back a vast collection to the McGregor Museum, Kimberley. This collection is of extreme interest, as Mr Power, not satisfied with obtaining the best implements only, also obtained a huge variety of unfinished specimens, which indicate to the student the technology and methods employed by these folk in the manufacture of their implements, which will be referred to later.
"Any attempt at dating the finds was impossible in this case, as the sand overlay the material and kept it from being buried under any more stable deposit. The constant rolling and shifting of the sand dunes have alternately revealed and covered different portions of the site, making it difficult to judge the full extent of the deposit.
"Mr MC Burkitt visited this site while at Mossel Bay, and took a considerable amount of material with him to Cambridge, leaving the greater volume behind at the South African Museum.
"There is reason to believe that Mossel Bay will yield a vast amount of valuable information if carefully investigated by the right workers." Marean writes in one of his research articles, "The caves sit near the base of a nearly vertical cliff face roughly 60m from base to top. Scaling the cliff is a hazardous climb, and probably explains the lack of discovery of these sites in the past."
His findings have shown that Mossel Bay inhabited relatively intelligent humans in the Middle Stone Age roughly 164 000 years ago, living off the ultimate brain food, shellfish.
For more interesting reads on the subject, visit www.mosselbayman.co.za
By Mari Scott