A team of international experts has been studying ancient evidence left behind at the Pinnacle Point Caves in Mossel Bay and has, so far, come up with vital clues about fish-eating, tool-making Middle Stone Age humankind – and the future effects of global warming.

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Fish oil and shellfish offer various healthy Omega fatty acids, known popularly as ‘brain food’.

Evidence at the Pinnacle Point Caves in Mossel Bay shows that ancient people lived here between 170 000 and 40 000 years ago, and that they lived off what the ocean left them on the rocks below the caves.

Simply put, Pinnacle Point on today’s Garden Route may have been the world’s first-ever seafood restaurant – albeit a self-service establishment.

Food was at a premium at that time, but not for those who lived in these caves, which provide a marvellous view out over the Indian Ocean and passing southern right whales. They ate the whales that beached here, any seals they could find and, of course, shellfish off the rocks.

The Pinnacle Point Caves also contain signs from those times of stone tool-making and the grinding of ochre for body painting.

These findings were made by Professor Curtis Marean, from Arizona State University in the United States, and a group of archaeologists This development has prompted the local municipality to apply for World Heritage Site status for the caves.

The floors of the Pinnacle Point Caves give the 40-odd scientists working on the Mossel Bay Archaeology Project lots to think about in terms of ancient human lifestyles. Looking up, the dripstone formations suspended from the roofs of the caves tell them what the water, the flora and the weather was like back then.

Studies of both the roof and the floor of the Pinnacle Point Caves give scientists the chance to work out the future effects of climate change. This is an important part of what makes the Pinnacle Point Caves such a special place.

In October 2008, Marean told a gathering at the 44th Nobel Conference at the Gustavus Adolphus College in St Peter, Minnesota: ‘Our best sources for predicting these environmental changes are the records from the past, since the Earth warmed and cooled many times and ancient humans designed strategies to adapt to these orbitally driven changes.

‘Today, climate changes are driven by human behaviour, and once again we must learn to adapt. The past holds lessons for us both on how the environments may change, and on how we may adapt to these changes.’

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