Archaeological Route – Kimberley

Kimberley’s brief history is but a fleeting blip in a local pageant which, as archaeologists have shown, reaches back deep into the past.

An introductory sweep through 3 million years of Northern Cape history – in fact, the story of humanity itself – is the subject matter of a comprehensive display at the McGregor Museum, called Ancestors. From here visitors may venture on to sites such as the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre, where hundreds of rock engravings, more than a thousand years old, can be viewed.

The centre doubles up as the premier outlet for contemporary !Xun and Khwe San arts and crafts. Canteen Kopje, and the Barkly West Museum, further out from Kimberley, tell the story of the early alluvial diamond diggings which also revealed one of the world’s most impressive Stone Age handaxe sites, possibly more than a million years old.

An awesomely long sequence of human occupation, and record of cultural development, is documented by excavations at Wonderwerk Cave, near Kuruman. This huge cave extends 140m into the hillside and dates back nearly two million years. This is the oldest evidence on earth for the use of a cave by human ancestors, making this one of the world’s most phenomonal sites.