South Africa's Pre- and Ancient History
Did you know?
The search for the roots of human existence is focused in South Africa.
The world is an ancient place and in South Africa that ancient history is better preserved than most.
As the earth cooled around 4 billion years ago, so the first rocks were formed that laid the foundation for South Africa's ancient history. Amongst the oldest are found along the Greenstone Belt stretching from northern KwaZulu-Natal to the Soutpansberg Mountains in the Limpopo Province.
Two billion years ago a massive meteorite slammed into what is now the Vredefort Dome, a World Heritage Site near the Free State Province town of Parys.
That was not the end of the cataclysmic ancient history of South Africa.
Much of the country lay under an inland sea on the super-continent of Gondwana until its plates first collided, then tore apart into Africa, South America, Australia and Antarctica some 400 million years ago. The effects of this can still be seen along the serrated, mountainous coastline of the Western Cape.
It would be another 200 million years before dinosaurs appeared, leaving magnificent fossil records in the rocks of the Karoo. They disappeared in one of the great extinctions, opening the way for the ascendancy of Man.
More than 3 million years ago pre-human Australopithecus roamed Southern Africa. Now the search for the roots of human existence is focused on the cave system beneath the Sterkfontein Valley, which is part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg.
Australopithecus evolved into the earliest humans. Known as Strandlopers, they scoured the coastline for shellfish from Langebaan in the Western Cape to Border Cave in KwaZulu-Natal.
And they kept on going to populate the world - leaving behind the Bushmen who are renowned for their rock art, which can be viewed in most provinces as an indelible record of early South African historical information.