Footprints of Eve
Did you know?
A protein-rich marine diet is believed to have helped to increase early humans' brain size.
A young woman walking across a rain-wet dune leaves her small footprints in the sand. She is slightly built, about 1.4-metres high, and seems to have been burdened by something, perhaps a small animal she was bringing back to her people. Sand covered up her footprints again, and very slowly turned to stone, protecting the unseen marks she had left behind.
But, many thousands of years later, erosion causes the layers to split and break, and the little woman's footprints are exposed. Geologist Dave Roberts discovered them in 1995, and palaeoanthropologists like Dr Lee Berger confirmed they belonged, in all likelihood, to a grown woman. They called her 'Eve'.
Berger, in fact wrote a book called In the Footprints of Eve (co-authored by Brett Hilton-Barber), in which he describes the above scenario, which we can only imagine, given that the young woman must have passed over those dunes 117 000 years ago. She was an 'anatomically modern human' if she walked among us today, we would hardly give her a second glance, except to think she was a little short.
The footprints are now at the Iziko Museums' South African Museum in Cape Town, but will one day be displayed closer to where they were found, at Kraal Bay within the West Coast National Park.
The 'footprints of Eve' is a fanciful name implying that the West Coast, where the footprints where made, was a kind of Garden of Eden.
Perhaps that's not too far from the truth.
Nearby is the Klasies River Mouth site, where a large cave seems to have been home to a group of early humans about 130 000 years ago.
If it wasn't exactly Eden, at least these people seem to have had a good address, and a good lifestyle, with plenty to eat and a pleasant climate.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
South African Museum, Iziko
Tel: +27 (0)21 481 3800
Tel: +27 (0)22 772 1515
How to get here
The site: Kraal Bay, West Coast National Park, Langebaan Lagoon; The footprints: Iziko Museums' South African Museum in central Cape Town.
Best time to visit
Langebaan is best visited in the flower season (July to September) when the wild flowers are in bloom. Cape Town is great all year.
What will it cost
West Coast National Park: R96 (non-South African citizens) during flower season, R48 entrance (South African citizens). Outside flower season: R48 entrance (non-South African citizens), R34 (South Africans).
Iziko Museums' South African Museum, Cape Town: R30 for adults; R15 children (aged 6 to 18).