Heritage Forum

What do we know about early Stellenbosch history?

Mar 12, 2019 | Essays & Opinions, Forum, News

When and where did the human story begin? 
A short essay by Dr Jannette Deacon for the Stellenbosch Heritage Foundation describes what we currently know about the archaeology and history of the Stone Age people who lived in the vicinity of Stellenbosch and nearby Winelands in the Western Cape before European colonisation.
When and where did the human story begin?
There is abundant archaeological evidence from stone tools, and a few human remains, that Stone Age hunter-gatherer people lived in the Western Cape for about a million years. As yet, there is no evidence in this region for the earliest stone tools and fossil hominin remains that date to between 1 and at least 3 million years ago in the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng, Limpopo and North-West provinces. It is not clear whether this is a result of a limited ecological range in which the early hominins lived, or of the absence of suitable geological formations for the preservation of bone.

Early stone age tools

What do we mean by the Stone Age?
The Stone Age was the time when most of the tools that hunter-gatherer people used were made by striking one stone against another – a hammerstone against a core – so that sharp edges were created on the sides of the core and on the flakes that were detached. Many fine-grained rocks will produce flakes with edges that are sharper than a metal knife, but stone becomes blunt much more quickly than metal. Archaeologists focus on stone tools as the primary source of evidence for the presence of people in the landscape in the past because the tools are almost indestructible and therefore are often all that is left behind after bones, wood, plant remains and shells have disintegrated.

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