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Mossel Bay, South Africa

Photo: Russel J Smith, Mossel Bay (Some rights reserved)

Mossel Bay is unique for its combination of terrestrial and marine environments. It’s a place to hang out and a place to do stuff. Think of a place where cloudspotting meets sky diving.

Some Background
Mossel Bay is located on the coast of South Africa, located exactly half way between the provincial capitals of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth (each 400 kilometers away). It has a population of about 185,000 people.

Moderate climate seldom reaching below 10 degrees Celsius, with the maximums reaching 29/30 during the month of September through to April.

Recent storms have also uncovered numerous rocky areas on the beach changing the shore line for fishermen, Bathers and divers in the area. Some of the regular dive sites have been altered and at Santos reef wreckage from old shipwrecks have been exposed too. At a recent seminar it was declared that no less than five various species of whales frequent the bay area during the months from May to October to mate and give birth whilst four various species of dolphins are reported to be resident in and around the Mossel Bay area.

In recent developments the Caves around the Point in Mossel Bay have revealed sufficient evidence regarding early humans and as a result the area has been declared a national heritage site with the view to getting it internationally recognized.

In terms of gastronomy Mossel Bay is a melting pot of different cultures and the food in the area is testimony to this with a large variety of establishments each catering for a different needs, Seafood and Sushi is available at very competitive prices and most of the restaurants make use of the freshest ingredients from the sea as the town is a fishing community by nature.

In recent events a more concerted effort has been made to mainstream people with disabilities as the provincial government has started workshops in this regard and are looking at ways to include this community in more ways not only in Mossel Bay but through out the province.

Tourism Portals
Photo safari responsible tourism week 2012
New edu-tourism campus for Mossel Bay
Early modern humans use fire to engineer tools from stone@getme2mosselbay


Where to stay


Archaeology in Mossel Bay
Mossel Bay Archaeology Project: Earliest evidence for modern human behaviour

  • The floors of the Pinnacle Point Caves near Mossel Bay (on the Southern Cape coast of South Africa) contain a record of nearly 165,000 years of habitation.
  • The dripstone formations hanging from the roofs of the Caves contain fossilized carbon isotopes from which scientists can study the quality of water that entered the Caves over the period from 400,000 to 30,000 years ago. From this information they can deduce the kind of vegetation which grew above the Caves, and the climate that existed at the time of deposition.
  • Mossel Bay is thus possibly the only place in the world where modern human behaviour can be studied against the background of prevailing climate regimes. This permits deductions as to our likely ability to adapt to climate change in the future.
  • Geneticists have known for some time that all humans alive today stem from a core population of about 600 people who lived on the African continent about 165,000 years ago – the Mossel Bay Archaeology project has shown that they probably lived on the coast around the present day Mossel Bay.
  • The ‘earliest modern human behaviour’ is considered to include the use of bladelet technology (making complex tools); the use of ochres for paints and dyes in symbolling; and the systematic harvesting of the sea (which is significant because the shellfish provided the Omega-3 fatty acids needed for the development of the modern human brain). All of this took place in and around the Pinnacle Point Caves.
  • The findings are being studied by a team of almost 50 scientists around the world and, properly protected, the Caves will provide research material for generations to come.

The Pinnacle Point caves near Mossel Bay are the focus of the largest archaeological project of its kind in the world today – The Mossel Bay Archaeology Project (MAP), under the leadership of Professor Curtis Marean, Professor of Paleoanthropology at the Institute of Human Origins at the Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and South Africa’s Dr. Peter Nilssen.

“The Mossel Bay region is famous in Stone Age studies because it lent its name to one of the first formally recognized stone tool industries in South Africa – The Mossel Bay Industry”. (Peter J. Nilssen & Curtis Marean)

According to Prof. Marean, the Cape St Blaize Cave (beneath the Lighthouse in Mossel Bay), was first excavated by George Leith in 1888, and later – in 1932 – by A.J.H. Goodwin, and “yielded a series of selected lithic collections central to the definition of the Mossel Bay Industry (Goodwin, 1930; Sampson, 1971).”

The deposits in the Pinnacle Point Caves – some kilometres to the west of the Cape St Blaize – were only discovered in the late 1990s, however, and Professor Marean and his team only announced their findings – that the inhabitants of the Caves had been collecting coastal resources for food 165,000 years ago, and that they’d been producing advanced complex tools and using ochre pigments for symboling – in 2007.

This is the earliest known evidence for modern human behaviour.

The Mossel Bay Archaeology Project is funded by the USA’s National Science Foundation and the Hyde Family Trust. It works in collaboration with, and receives various forms of support from, the Iziko South African Museums, the University of Cape Town, and Mossel Bay’s Dias Museum Complex.

The Project is described on the Arizona State University web site as “a long-term field study of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) in the Mossel Bay region. The MSA in South Africa has gained increasing attention due to the discovery of bone tools at Blombos Cave, the abundance of ochre suggesting artistic expression, the presence of a variety of lithic assemblages (‘stone tools’) with advanced technological characteristics, and debates over the interpretation of the fauna.”

Archaeology of Mossel Bay and Climate Change
Importantly, carbon isotopes isolated from stalactites in the Pinnacle Point Caves reveal much about the water which filtered through from the vegetation above, and by correlating the findings of the archaeological excavations with the information gleaned from these isotopes, man’s origins can be placed in the context of the climate and the environment.

An important aspect of the Mossel Bay Archaeology project is thus the development of a continuous picture of climatic and environmental changes in the period from 400,000 to 30,000 years ago.

According to Professor Marean, the Mossel Bay Archaeology Project therefore has a much bigger impact than it would if it were studying only the origins of man: it will also help us to understand the response of ecosystems to long-term climate change.

He said that it is relatively easy to predict the impact of global warming on sea levels, but that the manner in which rainfall and vegetation respond warming is not well understood.

Prof. Marean is quoted on the Gustavus Adolphus College website as saying, “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 behavior, 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.”

Mossel Bay’s archaeology


Tour Mossel Bay’s Pinnacle Point Caves

Archaeology: Videos

Video: Peter Nilssen

Video: Professor Curtis Marean (ASU): The scientific significance of Pinnacle Point

Video: Curtis Marean explains the diggings in PP 5 & 6 North (Pinnacle Point)


The Post Office Tree
History and botany of the tree: http://www.visitmosselbay.co.za/attractions/the-post-office-tree

Cape Lighthouse

Flickr Groups
Mossel Bay Pros Photo Safari
Mossel Bay Amateurs Photo Safari
Mossel Bay Smart Phones Photo Safari


Craft Art Workshop
Corner of Market & Church Streets

Mossel Bay Pincushion
The Mossel Bay pincushion – Leucospermum praecox – is a shrub that reaches about 2 metres in height and which grows on the coastal platform west of Mossel Bay. It’s endangered as a result of habitat loss. It flowers from August to January. The flowers are pollinated by birds, and seeds are released 2 months after flowering: they’re then dispersed by ants, which store them in underground nests.

Leucospermum preacox

Mossel Bay’s environment
Mossel Bay’s rich marine life needs to be protected
Mossel Bay Environmental Partnership (MEP)

Visit Mossel Bay


South African Route Map
Map of Central Mossel Bay
Dana Bay Map
Map of Voorbaai and Hartenbos
Explore Historical Mossel Bay


Tour Mossel Bay’s Bartolomeu Dias Museum

How they built a replica of Bartolomeu Dias ship, and sailed her from Portugal to Mossel Bay
And how she arrived 500 years to the day after Dias himself

Mossel Bay Travel Festival

And, also as a result of our discussions, we’ve even managed to convince our province’s tourism minister to live stream his next plenary – which will also take place during the Travel Festival http://www.visitmosselbay.co.za/media-releases/tourism-minister-to-hold-plenary-in-mossel-bay

Nearby: Great Brak River

Elsewhere on the Web

D’almeida Stadium


Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve

Atlatl – Caravel – Caves – Coast – Cycling – Deep Time – Fish – Garden Route – Geolocation – Human Origins – Klein Karoo – Lighthouse – Mossel Bay – Ocean – Ocre – Pinnacle Point – Sea Line – Skydiving – Surfing – Time Line – Voorkamer Museums (private collections not normally open to the public) – Western Cape – Wind – World Heritage Site – Yacht and Boat Club

George, 65 kilometers from Knysna, 50 kilometers from Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay
Western Cape Province


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