Sightseeing

ID #1750

Wonderwerk Cave, Mount Carmel, Kalahari, Northern Cape.

With a floor area of over 2000 m2, the cave penetrates 140-m into the hillside.  It is an ancient solution cavity in pre-Cambrian dolomitic limestone.  Hillside erosion exposed the cave about 800000 years ago. Since then, almost 6-m of windblown dust and small slabs from the roof have accumulated on the floor.  Ongoing archaeological excavations reveal evidence of human occupation in all layers, making this one of the longest-inhabited caves on earth.  The finds of several archaeological excavations are on display in the McGregor Museum in Kimberley.  They include hand axes and cleavers, refined points and blades and the horns of extinct antelope dating back to the Stone Age.  Ground stone arm-rings, bone arrow points, ostrich eggshell beads and engraved stones indicate cultural innovations spanning ten millennia.  Stone artefacts, potsherds and the hair of fat-tailed sheep attest to habitation by Khoi-San herders during the later Stone Age.  The discovery of bedding areas, the controlled use of fire, burnt animal bones, red ochre fragments and “pretty stones” suggest essentially modern behaviour at the dawn of prehistory.  In the area near the cave mouth, white, orange, red and black paintings feature abstract patterns, ostriches and a variety of game animals including elephant.  Such species and remnants of the San (Bushmen) still lived here when traveller Henry Methuen first recorded its existence in 1846.

NJ Bosman, a 1.98-m, 200-kg giant, his eleven sons and three daughters were the first white inhabitants of the cave.  They lived here from 1909-1911 while building the present homestead.  To keep out the dust they fashioned a floor of flat stone found in the mountains.  Later they used the cave as a stock shelter.  His commercial exploitation of bat guano between 1940 and 1944 resulted in damage to the upper levels of the floor area.  Despite this loss, the cave contains a unique record of mankind’s history in South Africa. Proclaimed a national monument in 1993, the cave holds a stalactite that grows during rainy seasons. 

Mount Carmel is on the eastern side of the Kuruman Hills. It is west of the R31 south of Kuruman, which is on the N14 northeast of Upington, which is at the intersection of the N14 with the N10. BFWonder

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Last update: 2009-07-17 15:00
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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