Saturday, 17 March 2012
Sibudu Cave, heritage and environment
A visit to the remarkable Sibudu Cave on the Tongaat River raised important issues about heritage and the environment. The slow and painstaking excavation has revealed remarkable information - bedding from 77 000 years ago, bone needles, arrowheads, the use of a composite glue made from plant gum and red ochre - some many thousands of years before their discovery elsewhere. People were using the leaves of Cryptocarya woodii, the River wild-quince, in bedding; it has strong insect-repellent qualities.
Local people treat the cave as sacred and it has never been vandalised. On the precarious edge of the cave grows a Natal Elm, Celtis mildbraedii, a very isolated speciment. There are grounds for concern, though. Barbados Gooseberry is spreading along the cliff-face. There is sand-winning in the river at the entrance to the cave. The extension of Hambanathi Township will bring more people, most with no connection to the local history, to the area. There is an urgent need to bring together the preservation of this astonishing resource with the conservation of the natural environment along the Tongaat River.