Kimberley Archaeology Route

The discovery of mineral wealth changed forever the way people envisaged what is now the Northern Cape. The copper mines in Namaqualand and then, on a far bigger and epoch-changing scale, the diamond diggings of the Kimberley region, attracted huge influxes of fortune seekers and migrant workers. The Archaeology Route takes you back to a past predating all of this. But much of its contemporary appreciation acquires added significance in relation to the recent past and present concerns.

The McGregor Museum's Ancestors and Frontier Galleries - a good place to start - show the long sweep of human history in the area from handaxe times more than a million years ago, to the emergence of modern humans in Africa and of cultural behaviours that include art, to the coming of farmers and state formation in the last 2000 years. It concludes with a challenging look at our frontier history - out of which different scenarios were possible before the finding of diamonds and gold.

You may turn this into a longer trip, to Wonderwerk Cave halfway between Danielskuil and Kuruman. An upgrade for public access to this site is necessary owning to fragile sections. At the moment visitors may only see the front portion of the cave, where distinctive 'fingerpaintings' occur on the walls. A new entrance will be created in 2008. There is a site museum and chalet accommodation. Recent palaeomagnetic and cosmogenic dating at
Wonderwerk Cave puts this site in a league all its own and suggests that the low density of artefacts right at the bottom of the sequence are Oldowan and not Acheulean as previously assumed. If this is so, then this may be the earliest known cave habitation by human ancestors on earth.