The Cave of Hearths
Visitors to Mokopane should not miss the opportunity of going on a guided tour of Makapan's Valley where extensive cultural and palaeontological deposits have played a crucial role in furthering our understanding of later human evolution and the appearance of modern man. The Cave of Hearths is one of only two Stone Age sites in the world that contain an unbroken sequence of artefacts from the Earlier Stone Age to the Later Stone Age. The Cave of Hearths preserves a remarkably complete record of human occupation from Early Stone Age “Acheulian” times in the oldest sediments through the Middle Stone Age, the Later Stone Age and up to the Iron Age. Nineteenth Century European relics such as brass ware and musket balls were found at the surface when excavations started. The archaeology of caves is best served by including a study of natural effects prior to and during anthropogenic input. This is especially true for the Cave of Hearths because not only has erosion determined the area of occupation, but also subsequent undermining has caused collapse of some of the rearward parts of the site during Early Stone Age (Acheulian) and later times; and this had a major impact on excavation. The key to understanding the nature of the collapsed layers was the rediscovery of a lower part of the cavern below the whole site. This lower cavern is no longer accessible, but the evidence for it was revealed in a swallow hole by R.J. Mason, and in archived material at the Department of Archaeology, University of the Witwatersrand. The creation and dissolution of dolomite fragments in the upper layers has resulted in the formation of thick, carbonate-cemented breccia that has preserved underlying layers and prevented further collapse. We agree with Mason that further archaeological and hominid finds await excavation under the proximate Historical Cave west entrance. This area has the potential for archaeological and palaeoanthropological material that predates the layers in the Cave of Hearths.