MOSSEL BAY NEWS AND VIDEO - The various delegates to the Coordinating Forum of Premier Helen Zille, held in Mossel Bay on Tuesday, were asked to note and support the proposed establishment of the Archaeological and Palaeontological Heritage Tourism Route in the Western Cape that is said to become a tool of economic growth and job creation for the area.
To cement their buy-in, MEC of Sport, Arts and Culture, Minister Anroux Marais, Minister of Education Debbie Schäfer and other roleplayers accompanied Premier Zille on an educational visit to the Pinnacle Point caves.
Marais said her department had steadily worked to promote significant archaeological sites as part of the tentative listing of a World Heritage Site serial nomination for the Early Modern Humans: Pleistocene Occupation Sites, which include three sites in the Western Cape: the Diepkloof Rock Shelter, Blombos Cave and Pinnacle Point Site Complex.
"We envisage the route to eventually extend to as far as Robberg near Plettenberg Bay."
The archaeological sites at Mossel Bay's Pinnacle Point have revealed some of the earliest evidence for modern human behaviour and have been declared Provincial Heritage Sites.
Pinnacle Point is significant because it's a uniquely dense concentration of well-preserved archaeological sites which contain a record of human occupation over a period of about 170 000 years - from the time when modern human behaviour first emerged to the pre-colonial period.
The archaeological remains first came to light during an environmental impact study of a portion of land that would later be developed as the Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort.
The 1997 survey by Dr Jonathan Kaplan and Dr Peter Nilssen revealed a number of stone age sites as well as evidence that humans had inhabited the caves in the cliffs below the present-day Pinnacle Point Club House for tens of thousands of years.
On Tuesday, Dr Nilssen did a presentation on the importance of the caves for the premier and her party prior to their visit to the site.
Integrated Conservation Management Plans have been developed for each of these sites, and the department is working to establish the Western Cape management authority structure for these sites over the next few months.
The development of a nomination dossier for the Western Cape sites, is in progress. And all these efforts form the basis for the further development of an Archaeological and Palaeontological Heritage Tourism Route, which aims to promote heritage tourism in the province.
In 2015 six sites were added to the list of the UNESCO Tentative World Heritage Sites as part of the serial nomination, Emergence
of Modern Humans: The Pleistocene Occupation Sites. Three sites are located in the Western Cape, two in KwaZulu-Natal and one in the Eastern Cape.
The three sites in the Western Cape are the Pinnacle Point Site Complex in Mossel Bay, the Blombos Cave in Hessequa, and the Diepkloof Rock Shelter in the Cederberg.
In March 2017 the Western Cape Government's cabinet granted an in-principle approval towards the establishment of the Archaeological and Palaeontological Heritage Tourism Route in the Western Cape which uses these three sites as anchor sites. The department has since drafted a strategic business plan for the implementation of the route.
Minister Marais told the Mossel Bay Advertiser that tourism routes have demonstrated to be an effective vehicle for local economic development, especially in rural contexts. "Culture and Heritage are the second most popular activity undertaken by tourists when visiting the destination," she said.
Cradle of Human Culture
"The proposed route links together a series of cultural tourism attractions in order to promote local tourism by encouraging visitors to travel from one location to another.
It is anchored on three World Heritage Sites with the potential of other sites of heritage significance to be added at any stage based on their tourism-readiness. Wesgro, the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for the Western Cape, has registered this route as the "Cradle of Human Culture".
Wesgro has already initiated strategic discussions with the Cradle of Humankind in order to develop a consolidated marketing of Archaeological and Palaeontological Heritage Tourism in South Africa.
For the success of this project, involvement and agreement of various stakeholders is crucial. A steering committee was established to oversee the delivery of the route and make recommendations to the department.
Local municipalities will use the route as a tool of economic growth and job creation and will assist in marketing the route by also providing additional tourism data to enrich the functioning of the route.
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