The Artist’s Journey

The Artist’s Journey

Discover the earliest forms of patterns and symbols

Though not open to the public, Diepkloof Rock Shelter near Piketberg is perhaps the most significant destination on your route. A provincial heritage site, the site – comprising two caves – is where researchers have discovered evidence of human occupation for nearly 85 000 years, and what is believed to be some of the earliest use of symbolism by early humans.

In addition to Middle Stone Age tools and other artefacts, scientists from the University of Cape Town’s Department of Archeology and French colleagues have found about 300 pieces of ostrich eggshell with patterned markings thought to be around 65 000 years old in the shelter’s deposit.

The researchers believe the graphic designs had meaning, indicating a form of communication (“symbolic messaging”) that set our Diepkloof ancestors apart from their predecessors.

In addition to the Middle and Later Stone Age deposit, the site also displays rock art dating back to San hunter gathers, Khoe pastoralists and the colonial period. The overlapping sequence of these rock paintings also shows the long period during which the cave was occupied and used.

You can’t enter the Diepkloof excavation site, but there are plenty of other cultural riches to discover nearby.

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(Image: Heritage Western Cape)
1
Cape Town
84km to next stop

Cape Town’s story begins with the birth of Table Mountain 800-million years ago and the discovery of human footprints dating back 117 000 years. Today it’s a colourful and harmonious fusion of ethnic diversity and a city overflowing with opportunity.

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2
!Khwa ttu, Yzerfontein
53km to next stop

Join San demonstrating their skills and sharing their ancient knowledge about oral history, tracking animals and identifying plants at !Khwa ttu, a non-profit San culture and education centre.

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3
West Coast Fossil Park, Langebaan
95km to next stop

Map your route to the West Coast Fossil Park near Langebaan about 150km from Cape Town to see many well-preserved fossil remains of some of the animals that roamed the area about 5-million years ago.

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4
Elands Bay Cave, Elands Bay
23km to next stop

Ancient San paintings have been found in the Elands Bay Cave in the mountains a few kilometres from Elands Bay. Researchers believe people lived in the cave 4 400 to 3 000 years ago.

Read more See map Elands Bay
5
Diepkloof Rock Shelter, Piketberg
81km to next stop

Though not open to the public, Diepkloof Rock Shelter near Piketberg is perhaps the most significant destination on The Artist’s Journey route. Here, researchers have discovered evidence of human occupation for nearly 85 000 years.

Read more See map
6
Riel dancing and living culture
36km to next stop

Experience an authentic riel dance, a cultural expression of courtship rituals, animal antics and joyous jive moves practiced by descendants of San and Khoi people.

Read more See map Clanwilliam
7
Sevilla Rock Art Trail, Clanwilliam
71km to next stop

See some of the finest examples of San rock art in the region at nine sites along the Sevilla Rock Art Trail on Traveller’s Rest Farm, 34km from Clanwilliam.

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8
Truitjieskraal, Matjiesrivier Reserve
256km to next stop

The Cederberg is dotted with rock art, but Truitjieskraal in the Matjiesrivier Reserve World Heritage Site is arguably one of the most impressive sites, with rock paintings dating back thousands of years.

Read more See map Clanwilliam