Footprints that could have been Eve's, were discovered hidden away on the shores of Langebaan Lagoon. The site is located 100 km north of Cape Town, along the Whale trail. The grey sandstone these Prints are found in has been dated back to 117 000 years ago, the founding of modern man. Shortly after a heavy rainstorm, the woman who left these footprints ventured out on to what is now known as the Whale trail. The footprints were dried out by the sun and then encased by sand blown by the wind. Leaving these precious footprints imbedded here for the rest of time.
Eves footprints found on the Whale Trail
Paleoanthropologists speak of this woman as 'Eve' but only as a hypothetical female who lived in Africa between 100 000 and 300 000 years ago, but it is believed that they were made in the right time period and on the right continent to have been Eve's. Studies have been carried out to measure the variation in mitochondrial DNA, a genetic material that is only shared by females. These studies have proven that one common thread is shared, and that is that we all descend from one original female.
Specialists today agree that the emergence of modern Homo sapiens probably originated in Africa. Many of these experts agree that this critical emerging stage was started at this very location. Fragments of bones that have been dated back more than 120 000 years ago where found both in Ethiopia and here in Southern Africa.
The west coast region, known as the Whale trail shows physical evidence that these areas where used as refuge during harsh times. Conditions brought on by the ice age 186 000 years ago in Africa may have forced these primitive humans into sheltered pockets. Here they would have had enough water and food to survive. Approximately 66 000 years later the surroundings seemed to have changed into more luscious conditions. It is not surprising that these primitive men picked this area to begin their evolutionary journey. The abundant sea life along the Whailtrail has attracted many people for millennia.
Caves were found along the Whale trail that had been visited by hunter-gatherers 120 000 years ago. They continued visiting these caves for the next 60 000 years. The objects that were found in these caves such as, animal bones, mussel shells and ashes from many hearths determined the time period. The hearths indicate that they were able to make fire at will. Ochre pieces were found dating back 80 000 to 125 000 years ago, these were used as crayons to paint themselves for rituals, which they danced in. Archaeologist's who studied these caves agree that these caves were lived in two to three weeks at a time. The caves are also organized with garbage heaps in one-corner and fire hearths in the other.
Scientists have debated the possibility that the first modern people might have been anatomically minded. One opinion is that these ancient occupants were able to strategically plan how to trap live animals for food. The other opinion being that it was not possible for them to develop such complex strategies they were scavenges and only scouted for food that was already dead.
Paleoanthropologists who studied the faunal remains left behind in these caves discovered that these hunter-gatherers were not able to catch fish at this early stage. Also the bones found from this period were mostly eland, a docile antelope, pointing to their hunting limitations. Areas where fish bone deposits were found were only dated 20 000 years ago. The other animal bones found along with these were of more dangerous animals such as, wild pig and buffalo.
Thus indicating that their hunting and fishing abilities were now more developed. Specialists believe that it was at this point that their symbolic thinking abilities emerged. Which allowed them to think abstractly, so as to anticipate and make plans for the future and analyze the past. It is the basis for developing a complex language, and creating art.
After completing this leap into symbolic thinking it is believed that some of them left Africa for northern Australia and Europe where carvings were found in the walls of rock shelters and caves.
Research has proven that at the emergence of this Homo sapien race these still evolving humans looked much different. Their bodies where more robust, their faces where much bigger with their chins being weaker and eye brow ridges more protrusive. It is thought that the inhabitance here on the South African west coast where genetically isolated, so being able to shift from primitive features to more distinctive modern traits, such as a higher forehead, less visible eyebrow ridges and a jutting jaw.
Soon after the footprints were discovered a large area was found several kilometers away, which was used as a butchering ground. The Animal bones found here date as far back as 40 000 years ago. Some of the bones found here belong to animals that are extinct. Found scattered around the hidden area are stone tools that were used to cut up the animals. The remains of a Giant buffalo, whose horns spanned more than three meters long, was found with scare marks on the pelvis showing that the hunters cut the ligaments to release the femur and pull the shank away. Samples taken from this site, now known as Geelbek, were dated as being 40 000 years old.
The Whale trail is unmistakably the most beautiful part of the world as well as the most historically rich. Even though it cannot be confirmed or denied that these footprints were the Biblical 'Eve's', there is no doubt that the Whale trail is where all modern man originates.
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