Wonderwerk Cave, near Kuruman
Afrikaans name: Wonderwekgrot
The Wonderwerk Cave can be found on the Wonderwerk farm halfway between Kuruman and Danielskuil in the Northern Cape. Wonderwerk, which means miracle, is the perfect description for this spectacular cave which is home to some amazing archaeological discoveries that unearthed so much information about human evolution.
The cave and its surrounding areas are now part of the McGregor Museum in Kimberley and have also been declared a National Heritage Site. The cave is open to the public but some sections have been cordoned for conservation and research purposes. Visitors are also welcome to stay near the cave as there is overnight accommodation nearby. The cave is also wheelchair friendly which allows everyone the opportunity to experience and explore it.
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Nowadays, the Northern Cape is an extremely unforgiving environment but due to the discovery of well-preserved plant fossils that date back to the ice ages show that the environment was very different to what it is now. Other fossils show that the Northern Cape was also once wetter and warmer than today as well as a home to a wide variety of wildlife that has since become extinct.
In 2008, a major discovery was made of two million year old stone tools which provided archaeologists with a wealth of information and the earliest evidence of deliberate residence by hominids and Homo sapiens. It is also one of the oldest inhabited caves on Earth. Some tools that were found dated back to the Middle and Later Stone Ages and it is believed that this location was one of the most technologically advanced regions in the world.
Primitive paintings that depict early hunter-gatherers' lives can be found on the cave walls. Many of these images show that Eland and Elephant once roamed the landscape freely about 1 500 years ago. According to the evidence found in the cave, it is believed that the San Bushmen were responsible for these drawings, however some other unidentified remains have also been found which could show that other indigenous tribes also occupied the cave at some stage.
The cave’s first white inhabitants were the Bosman family who had three daughters and eleven sons. The Bosmans moved into the cave in the early 1900's but did not stay in the cave for too long. Visitors to the cave will notice areas of the cave have been paved; this was done by the Bosmans who used flat stones that they had collected in the mountains. In 1907 the parents moved out of the cave into a house but some of the children reportedly stayed behind for another 10 years. Granddaughter, Girlie Bosman was born in the cave in 1914. Once the remaining children and their families moved out of the cave, it was then used as a coach house and sheep shelter. To give you a better idea of the sheer size of the cave, local folklore says that a fully spanned ox-wagon can turn around in the entrance.
Anyone who travels to Kuruman should make a trip to the Wonderwerk Cave. It really is an awe-inspiring yet humbling experience as you can see how so many different generations of people lived and evolved to where we are today.
Entrance to the cave
The cave extends 140 metres