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.