Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Monday, May 28, 2012

South African musings

Cape Agulhas
Cape Agulhas, southernmost tip of Africa. Photo by Austin Whittall May 2012.
Copyright © 2012 by Austin Whittall

I visited South Africa. During the last two weeks my wife and I have taken a lovely vacation to that great country at the tip of the African continent. This is not the place to go into its turist attractions, the beauty of its landscape, the friendliness of its people, its wildlife, great food and wines, so please be assured that I won't bore you with my travel anecdotes. Instead I will post some thoughts on the peopling of South America starting out from the African Continent.

The nasty waters south of Africa

I had the opportunity to see the rough South Atlantic Ocean beating upon the rocky shores of the Cape of Good Hope, Hermanus and Cape Agulhas. I also experienced the Indian Ocean's surf roaring against beaches and cliffs along the south of South Africa between Port Elizabeth and Cape Agulhas. The sea is really rough.

The sight of these choppy waters has has made me reconsider the theory that I have mentioned in previous posts (The South African Out of Africa), which suggests that our ancient ancestor Homo erectus crossed these waters and skirted the Antarctic continent to reach America.

No man (or hominin) in his senses would dare venture into those roaring waves.

The photograph above was taken at the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas (34° 49' 58"S, 20° 00' 12"E), where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean waters meet.

Ancient record of humans in Southern Africa

I also had the chance to visit a caveat Mossel Bay, on the point, under the lighthouse.

Located at 22° 10' E and 34° 12' S the Cape of St. Blaize separates the rough Indian Ocean waters from those of Mossel Bay. The tip of the Cape was named after the Saint of the day Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias spotted this part of the world, in February 1488. He named the place Aguada de Sao Bras (Watering place of St Blaize).

The cave is actually an overhang, is known as Bat Cave and is set on Cape St. Blaize. It was excavated partially by Leith in 1888 and again in 1932 by A. J. H. Goodwin and B. D. Malan, who reported their findings in 1935. [1] The stone tools were described as Middle Stone Age "Mossel Bay Industry" and record about 165,000 years of human presence in this area.

The cave itself is about 30 m (95 ft) above sea level and is about 90 ft wide by 40 ft deep (27 by 12 m). It faces towards the southeast and offers a lovely view of the surf below. The following photograph shows both cave under the lighthouse:

Bat Cave Mossel Bay
Bat Cave at Mossel Bay. Photo Austin Whittall Copyright © 2012 by Austin Whittall

So, modern humans have lived here for most of our existence as a distinct group of hominins. On the flight back to Buenos Aires, I read an interesting article [2] that made me wonder if other more ancient groups such as Australopithecus sediba may have lived at Mossel Bay or roamed the coasts of Southern Africa.

A. sediba may be the link between our homo genus and the more distant and primitive Australopithecines and has been proposed as an ancestor to H. erectus . These hominins lived about 2.3 Mya and their remains have been found at Johannesburg.

Could they be the ones that made it to Georgia? Was it they who left Africa before H. erectus? Since I am now discarding the South Atlantic route, could they have drifted across the more benign Equatorial route pushed by ocean currents? (see my post on the Trans Atlantic route) Or did they trek all the way into America across Asia and Beringia?

Further reading

[1] A. J. H. Goodwin and B. D. Malan, Archaeology of the Cape St. Blaize Cave and Raised Beach, Mossel Bay. Annals of the South African Museum, Vol. 24, part 3, S. 111-140

[2] Kate Wong, First of Our Kind: Could Australopithecus sediba Be Our Long Lost Ancestor?. Sensational fossils from South Africa spark debate over how we came to be human. Scientific American. March 20, 2012.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

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