Discover the earliest forms of patterns and symbols
Elands Bay is a small Cape West Coast (Weskus) town – and well-known surf spot – about two and a half hours’ drive north of Cape Town, known for its rich birdlife and Ramsar wetland at Verlorenvlei (the Western Cape’s largest natural estuary and important habitat for wading birds). The settlement is also particularly significant for the ancient San paintings found in the Elands Bay Cave on Cape Deseada just three kilometre outside town, above the harbour.
The site was occupied around 4 400 to 3 000 years ago and hunting and gathering activities continued until the 17th century. The discovery of hearths inside the cave has shown that the early people who lived there used fire. It also appears that they stored food underground and used ostrich eggs as vessels for water.
Rock paintings include large images of eland, regarded by the San as a spiritual creature, as well as smaller antelope and other animals. Most striking is the many small handprints on the cave walls, believed to be those of children and young teenagers.