Klasies River Caves

Klasies River Caves
The Klasies River Mouth sites are located in series of caves to the east of the Klasies River mouth, on the Tsitsikamma coast in the Humansdorp district of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. They are usually collectively referred to as Klasies River Mouth. This archaeologically prosperous area has been the subject of excavations since the 1960s. As a significant Middle Stone Age (MSA) site, the area has taken centre stage in the debates about the origin of anatomically modern humans and the emergence of modern behaviour among humans by yielding some of the oldest evidence of Homo sapiens.

The people who occupied the caves at Klasies River Mouth followed a seasonal round, hunting small game, and later fish. They also gathered plants and roots and collected shellfish. These caves have not only provided early evidence for shellfish collecting, but also insights into settlement organisation during the MSA. This is evidenced by the archaeological remains that have been found on the site. In addition to these archaeological remains, human skeletal specimens have been found including cranial fragments, mandibles with teeth and a few postcranial remains. These human remains are not from conventional burials. The oldest human remains, which do not occur throughout the archaeological site but in particular horizons within the main site, have been dated to about 110 000 years old and are amongst the oldest known human remains of morphologically modern people. There is no general consensus on whether this indicates ritualistic burial practice or an incidence of interpersonal violence. The human remains found at Klasies River Mouth have significantly challenged the original thinking that modern humans originated in Western Asia and Upper Palaeolithic Europe about 40 000 years ago. This significance was acknowledged when Klasies River Mouth was added to South Africa‚??s tentative list for World Heritage Sites in 1998.