New cultural route explores our origins, taps tourism

Premier Helen Zille with the Riel dancers who performed at the launch.

The Cradle of Human Culture, a route taking visitors on a journey to learn more about the origin of human culture, was launched at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on Thursday April 11.

The route comprises three main sites – Diepkloof Rock Shelter near Elands Bay, Blombos Cave close to Stilbaai and Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay.

These three sites house some of the world’s earliest artefacts and exhibitions of human evolution.

The sites are in the process of receiving world heritage site status. Other sites that will feature on the route are the West Coast Fossil Park, which has the largest concentration of fossils dating back five million years, the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn and the Zeitz MOCAA at the V&A Waterfront.

While the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng is well known for its rich fossil records of humanity’s biological beginnings, the first evidence of social, behavioural and cultural innovation was found in the Western Cape.

Keynote speaker Premier Helen Zille said the Cradle of Human Culture was what made people human, and this started globally in the southern Cape.

“People want to know where we come from and how we evolved, and they can now take the trip and find out more about it. They can understand how humans evolved socially, behaviourally and it will be much easier to build bridges with people who think they have things in common.

“More and more people are asking where we come from, and now they can come and ask these questions here.”

She said the route was a heritage offering that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the world.

“We are here learning to bridge cultures and bring people together, and that is what we are celebrating with this route.”

Economic Opportunities MEC, Beverly Schäfer said by highlighting these aspects of culture and heritage, the route would add another layer to the attractions the Western Cape already has to offer, such as Table Mountain, Robben Island and the food and wine scene.

She said cultural and heritage tourism was becoming more popular, and this route added to the already popular Garden route.

“Acknowledging our heritage builds bridges and helps us overcome our differences. It also allows us to have conversations about the future we want to have.”

The MEC of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais, said the route was not only an archaeological experience but a journey where we could learn about human culture and ourselves.

“By exploring our heritage, we discover that we have more in common than that which sets us apart. This platform was created to celebrate as well as create awareness about the rich heritage that South Africa prides itself in.”

Ms Zille also launched the Cradle of Human Culture logo — a design inspired by the engravings on the ostrich egg shells from Diepkloof Rock shelter which showed signs of the earliest forms of communication.

The logo also has the same shape used in the Cradle of Humankind logo, to show the link between the two.

Iziko South African Museum will also have an exhibition, Origins of Early Sapiens Behaviour, which showcases modern human origins and innovations, and archaeological records and discoveries of Blombos Cave, Klasies River and Klipdrift Shelter.

The exhibition is on until April 11 2020.