Discover the earliest forms of patterns and symbols
Diepkloof Rock Shelter takes its name from the nearby Diepkloof stream. It is situated between Elands Bay and Redelinghuys and overlooks the Verlorenvlei wetland. The exceptional collection of over 400 intentionally engraved ostrich eggshell, dated to around 60 000 years ago, is amongst the earliest known examples of storage and transport vessels anywhere in the world. These engraved fragments of ostrich eggshells showcase early development of a graphic tradition, the ability of our ancestors to conceptualise patterns and forms that do not exist in nature and the complex use of symbols to mediate social interactions. The early appearance of more refined stone tools between 100 000 and 74 000 years ago provide evidence of abstract thinking, technological innovation and the ability to plan and strategize.
Excavated for over 40 years, this site contains one of the most complete and continuous Middle Stone Age archaeological sequences in Southern Africa. This extremely well-preserved record has allowed scientists to reconstruct in detail the lives of our ancestors, the environment in which they thrived, and their adaptation over the course of the millennia to an evolving environment. In addition to the Middle and Later Stone Age deposits, the site also contains rock art dating back to San hunter-gatherers, Khoe pastoralists and the colonial period. The sequence of these rock paintings, at times overlapping, shows the long period during which the cave was occupied and used.
Diepkloof Rock Shelter was declared a Provincial Heritage Site in 2015 and it is currently on the tentative serial nomination list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is expected to be declared a World Heritage Site within the next few years.