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					                           TENTATIVE LIST SUBMISSION
STATE PARTY: Republic of South Africa                DATE OF SUBMISSION:

Submission Prepared by:
Name:        Mary Leslie                        E-mail:
Address:     PO Box 4637                        Fax: +27 21 462 4509
             CAPE TOWN 8000                     Tel: +27 21 462 4502 (office)
             SOUTH AFRICA                            +27 82 733 2611 (mobile)
Institution: South African Heritage Resources Authority

The Modern Human Cave Sites of Klasies River, Border Cave, Wonderwerk Cave and
related sites (serial nomination).
Province, Region: Eastern Cape Province, Humansdorp District (KR); Ingwavuma District,
KwaZulu Natal (BC) and Northern Cape Province, Gasegonyane Municipality, or Kgalaghadi
District (WC).

Latitude and Longitude: 34º06'S; 24º24'E (KR), and 27º01'18"S; 31"59'23"E (BC) and
27º50'46"S; 23º33'19"E (WC).

The Klasies River sites are situated some 50 km west of Cape St Francis, on the eastern end of
the Tsitsikamma coast, Humansdorp District. Two large caves, Main Site and Cave 2, and two
smaller ones, 1A and 1B, have been eroded by wave action in the cliff face at 18m and 16m
above the present sea level. Only one other cave, Cave 5, has been excavated. Unusual
geological conditions in the form of an ancient dune have allowed the preservation of bone and
shell. Together with stone tools, charcoal and ash, the deposit records the history of the Stone
Age people who lived there intermittently from the Last Interglacial time (130 000 to about
118 000 years ago), through the Last Glacial (118 000 to 10 000 years ago) and into the Present
Interglacial (the last 10 000 years). Included amongst the bones are skull and post-cranial
remains of the oldest well-dated anatomically modern people, Homo sapiens. They demonstrate
that modern humans were living at the southern end of the African continent before they
migrated into Europe and later Australasia and the Americas.

Border Cave is a spectacular site overlooking a steep drop into Swaziland with a remarkably
continuous sequence of occupation spanning about 200 000 years. As at Klasies River Main Site
the bones include remains assigned to anatomically modern people, Homo sapiens, dating to
more than 110 000 years. Owl pellet analysis has indicated environmental fluctuations and the
evidence of the stone artefacts has been cited as indicating early hafted tools around 100 000
years ago.

Wonderwerk Cave is a 140m deep cave in the eastern side of the Kuruman Hills, with a 6m
deposit reflecting human and environmental history from at least the onset of the Middle
Pleistocene to the present that dates back possibly more than a million years ago. It is one of the
very few cave sites containing Acheulean material, and complements the archaeological record
from key sites reflecting the emergence of modern humans, such as Klasies River Mouth and

Border Cave in preserving a unique record of faunal and cultural material. It also contains dated
fragments of rock art.


The origin of anatomically modern humans and the debate around the modernity of their
behaviour is of significance to the history of all people. These South African sites have
contributed enormously to this debate and expand our understanding of this period in other parts
of Southern Africa.

Amongst them are probably the best documented Middle Stone Age archaeological sites, having
the oldest human remains; amongst the oldest remains of the use of marine resources, the richest
early Late Pleistocene African mammal faunal occurrences known, including many species now
extinct, and the early evidence in the artefacts and layout of settlement has been interpreted as
representing symbolic behaviour and thus indicating the emergence of modern human
behaviour. They have been cited as amongst the earliest evidence of the emergence of modern
humans with modern cognitive abilities.

Criteria met:
C(i)   C(ii) √   (iii) √   (iv) √   (v) √   (vi) √   N(vii)   N(vii)   N(viii)   N(ix)   N(x)

Criterion (ii): These “caves dwellings … of outstanding universal value” exhibit important
developments in the interchange of human values in „architecture‟ (settlement) and technology,
in the occurrence of small hearths, putatively related to early nuclear family life; the prepared-
core stone blades, backed tools and points characteristic of these industries and the early
evidence of „art‟ in the incised ochre fragments, all of which have been cited as indicative of
modern cognition.

Criterion (iii): These sites bear testimony to once widely practiced cultural traditions, now lost.
They are unique in the view they give of the development of technology from the Middle
Pleistocene and of anatomically modern people.

Criterion (iv): Their long and complimentary sequences of deposit record significant stages in
human development, anatomically and technologically.

Criterion (v): Analysis of the geomorphological and faunal components of these sites allows
interpretation of early human land use and human adaptation and interaction with the
environment in glacial and interglacial times.

Criterion (vi): In their explication of the origin of anatomically and debatably behaviorally
modern humans, these sites are of significance to the origin of all modern people.

The sites also fulfill the principle that African heritage recognition should highlight cultural
achievements and the role of Africa in the development of humankind, enriching common
global civilisations (Recommendations, Second global Strategy meeting, UNESCO, 1997:143)

Assurance of authenticity or integrity:
Controlled archaeological excavations carried out at Klasies River Main Site in the 1960s, and
as part of a multidisciplinary excavation project in the 1980s and 1990s have demonstrated
conclusively that the deposits are in situ. Results of this research have been widely cited as
providing an unusually long and well-preserved sequence of modern human habitation that can
be securely dated in relation to global climatic cycles and sea-level changes. These findings
have stimulated international debate about the origins of modern behaviour. The Klasies River
Main site, as well as four caves to the east, were declared a national monument, now a
provincial heritage site. They are within an area designated a National Heritage Site for its
natural beauty.

Caveat: The Klasies sites, because of their sensitivity, have not been open to the public. As a
resource they are fragile, vulnerable to damage by visitors and are non-renewable. Policy has
been to limit access to minimize visitor impact. The World Heritage Convention makes
provision for the proclamation of sites because of their merit even through because of sensitivity
it is not possible to have open pubic access to them. This would, however, create wider interest
in the area and might, in future, create a need for easier access but this must depend on
negotiation with the owners and could only be implemented with the provision of a managing
authority, adequate infrastructure and an appropriate full conservation management plan.

Border Cave was first excavated in the 1930s and over the next 50 years further excavations
were undertaken. An interpretive centre has recently been established and it is a provincial
heritage site?

Wonderwerk Cave is within a portion of the Wonderwerk farm property which was ceded to the
McGregor Museum as a public servitude, and the site was declared a national monument and
documentation for nomination as a national heritage site has been submitted to SAHRA. The
Wonderwerk Cave servitude is managed jointly by the McGregor Museum, Gasegonyane
Municipality, the owners of the surrounding Wonderwerk property, and co-opted members of a
management committee. The portion of the farm on which the cave is situated has been ceded to
the McGregor Museum. There is a site museum adjacent to the cave.

In terms of national and provincial heritage legislation, archaeological material enjoys
automatic, blanket protection of fairly strict order. These measures are applicable to all three
sites and any associated material that might fall out of formally designated areas of protection.

Comparison with other properties:
Klasies River Cave 1 is the only coastal cave so far excavated that includes well-preserved bone,
shell and modern human remains dating to the Last Interglacial. Border Cave has a remarkably
continuous stratigraphic record. Wonderwerk Cave is unique in its province; and, beyond it, is
one of the few known localities with a multiple-stratum sequence with good organic
preservation spanning the Middle Pleistocene. In sum, these sites provide a unique record of
palaeoenvironmental and human history in an important phase of human evolution, the
development of anatomically modern humans. Sites of this time period that have extensive
deposits are rare. Other South African sites that do have deposits dating to similar periods but
which have either no bone, no shell, no human remains or a less complete stratigraphic record,
include Elands Bay Cave, Blombos Cave and Nelson Bay Cave in the Western Cape, rose
Cottage Cave in the Free State and Sibudu in Kwa Zulu Natal, some of which could be included

in the nomination dossier, pending further evaluation of their importance. An open last
Interglacial shell midden with stone tools has been found at Hoedjespunt on the „Western Cape

Similar deposits have been found at Haua Fteah in Libya. Remains of anatomically modern
humans are not found in Europe or Asia until much later but have also been found at Skhul and
Qafzeh in Israel where they are dated to c. 90-100 000 years ago. There are no equivalent or
comparable sites presently on the World Heritage List?


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