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Mossel Bay
29th February 2024
Arts & CultureNature & NurtureUncategorised

The Cape South Coast has much more on offer than you think – A new Hominin Tracksite!

The Cape South Coast is not just about beautiful clean beaches and breath taking mountain ranges. Archaeologically, treasures have been recently discovered putting this region for another reason on the map.
An article published in February in the open-access journal Scientific Reports, by an international team of researchers led by Dr Charles Helm, draws attention to a Late Pleistocene hominin tracksite identified in 2016 in coastal aeolianite rocks on the Cape south coast of South Africa. Up to forty hominin tracks are evident in the form of natural casts on the ceiling and side walls of a ten-metre long cave. A number of individuals, probably Homo sapiens, made the tracks while moving down a dune surface. The tracks are thought to have been made approximately 90,000 years ago, when the shoreline would have been about 2 km distant.
The narrow confines of the cave, often with a space of 50 cm or less between floor and ceiling, made for significant challenges in documentation. However, thousands of photographs of the track-bearing surface were taken. These were used to develop 3D photogrammetric models by Dr Richard McCrea in the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge, Canada. Combined with a track map, this digital data will make possible the creation of exact replicas of the track-bearing surface.
While the observed tracks are vulnerable to erosion though high tides and storm surges, further tracks may be exposed in future. This is the first reported hominin tracksite in the world from this time period. It adds to the sparse global record of early hominin tracks, and represents the largest and best preserved archive of Late Pleistocene hominin tracks found to date.
For further information please contact Dr Charles Helm: helm.c.w@gmail.com
Attached are four images, with the following captions:
Photogrammetry 3D image: 3D image of a portion of the northern surface (courtesy of Richard McCrea)

Track in natural light: Left natural cast track showing four toes; 10 cm scale bar (photo credit Charles Helm)

Track surface: Tracks on the southern surface, with 10 cm scale bars (photo credit Charles Helm)

Working in confined area: The northern track-bearing surface forms the ceiling of the
confined inner part of the cave (photo by Guy Thesen of senior author Charles Helm)

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