This is nowhere near as old as the tools found by Operation Zembe, but it’s a start.
A Cango Caves archaeological find of a stone tool dating back 80 000 years has shaken off the long-held belief that only inhabitants from the last 12 000 to 15 000 years, during the later Stone Age, inhabited this bit of Oudtshoorn.
The formal stone point instrument, which was probably used on the end of a spear as a blade or knife, is classed as a Still Bay point and its discovery is “quite significant”, according to Cango Caves manager Hein Gerstner, as it is not just a flake or a chip.
The scrapers and bladelets that were usually found from the later Stone Age were smaller tools than those of the middle Stone Age
He said it was not possible to know whether the user of the tool was an occupant of the cave or a hunter who had simply thrown it into the cave.
Found late last year during an occasional dust cleaning with a paintbrush of the front section of the cave, called the “twilight zone” because it is cast half in light and half in darkness, Gerstner said it was “a surprising find” because it was not buried very deeply.
Retired University of Stellenbosch archaeology professor Hilary Deacon said excavations of the caves in the late 1920s and early 1930s had produced middle Stone Age instruments, but the latest find was significant as a “buried rediscovery”.
“Cango is an important archaeological site as the limestone deposits there are good at preserving materials like bone,” he said, adding that artifacts like this were usually found in association with “domestic rubbish” that had survived, such as bone. The caves had been used in prehistoric times probably as a “base home camp”.
Gerstner said the Oudtshoorn council had recently approved a conservation management plan that would dictate an archaeological protocol for possible excavation sites in the Cango Caves, which would enhance visitors’ experience and also determine how deep the deposits went in the front of the caves.