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Camps Bay History

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These pages are presented as a courtesy by Gwynne Schrire in association with Hillel Turok (authors) and Albert Louw of Citi Graphics (publisher)    Camps Bay history follows on Pages 1-6

This is the story of Camps Bay, of the people who lived around it and the structures they erected. Every story has to have a beginning. Our beginning is at the very beginning, about 300 million years ago, when Camps Bay was somewhere between South America and Antarctica in a giant land mass called Gondwanaland. When the time came for it to split, 150 million years later, they separated and as happens in other relationships, they gradually drifted further and further apart, separated by the widening Atlantic ocean.

Already some of its rocks had been laid down; 540 million years ago debris from a former ocean had hardened into the rocks of the Malmesbury group, and had become compressed into folds and these in turn were intruded by rocks of the Cape granite suite. These became deformed and the folded areas were gradually uplifted to become mountains. Over the next 50 million years these mountains were reduced to sea level by erosion, as storms and rivers carried the weathering products down to the sea and deposited them on the beaches and on the gradually sinking continental shelf offshore. (Graafwater and Peninsula formation.) Glaciers from an ice age 440 million years ago moved over these beaches carrying gravel and silt, and dropped them into the cold water of the melting ice sheets. (Pakhuis and Cedarberg formation.) Two hundred million years later the inland mountain belt began to rise along with the Table Mountain chain ( Cape Town). At this time there was the parting of the ways with Africa going it alone, resulting in many fractures and intrusions into the mountain chain.Left behind, South Africa began to take the shape we know today. The mountain that had connected Table Mountain ( in Cape Town) to the Hottentots Holland range eroded away and the sea swept in, covering the Cape Flats.Table Mountain ( in Cape Town) became an island separated from mainland Africa. The sea retreated about 100 000 – 20 000 years ago, leaving behind the low sandy Cape Flats with its high water table and frequent winter flooding, and Table Mountain ( in Cape Town) and the section we call Camps Bay was once again joined to the mainland.

For the past 35 million years Table Mountain ( in Cape Town) has probably kept it’s same distinctive shape and formation although the remnants of earlier Cedarberg shale had been removed and the ravines and fissures have been progressively deepened.1 An imposing mass of sandstone 1 087.1 metres high, it shelters beneath its mass the valley and bay that became the valued refreshment station of Cape Town and the valley and bay that became the valuable resort of Camps Bay.The picturesque scenery of Camps Bay is a product of this dramatic history. It lies behind Table Mountain ( in Cape Town) nestled below the slopes of the Twelve Apostles ( in Camps Bay) Range.

When Rufane Donkin, the Acting Governor of the Cape, named the min 1820, he must have had problems with his arithmetic because thisrange has not twelve, but eighteen distinct buttresses. These are called Kloof, Fountain, Porcupine, Jubilee, Barrier, Valken, Kasteel, Postern, Wood, Spring, Slangolie, Corridor, Separation, Victoria, Grove, Llandudno Peak, Llandudno Corridor and the Hout Bay Corner. The sandstone cliffs of these so-called Twelve Apostles (in Camps Bay), have been sliced into blocks by numerous minor faults. The large granite boulders that are a feature of Camps Bay are part of a huge subsurface rock mass whose limits lie far beyond the Peninsula. Formerly molten, it fractured as it cooled into the large blocks so visible along the shore. Over the eons the Camps Bay wind has scoured the granite with the hard quartz grains until the southeast faces of the boulders at the north end of Camps Bay beach have become honeycombed, polished and grooved by the action of the wind and the sand. Any one who has walked along the beach on a windy day has felt the force of the sand-grains on their faces, and carried these small particles away embedded in their hair. The sand itself is soft and white because of the predominantly quadratic rocks of the Table Mountain ( in Cape Town)Group. The action of the waves can be seen in the granite headlands near Camps Bay which were cut by their force when the shoreline was 6 metres higher than it is at present. The millennia passed. Fish swam in the seas, seals basked on the beach, plants grew on the mountain slope and animals came down to graze and to hunt. In time man too came down to hunt the deer and to forage the wealth of the pools. We know a little about this because, “people hunted, fished, gathered, feasted, starved, killed and died, celebrated and mourned leaving an archaeological record for us to interpret.”

We plan our houses with defined sleeping, eating and food preparation areas; these people had defined areas as well. Their preparation areas – orshell middens – dot the peninsula, and from an examination of these we can see what they ate, what tools they misplaced in the garbage, even at which season the food was gathered.Sandy Bay, ten kilometers away from Camps Bay, has several of these middens and the clothing they wore as they discarded mussel and limpet shells was probably not much more substantial than that of the visitor today who discards coke bottles and sandwich wrappers for environmentalists or future archaeologists to find. Similar middens can be found in Llandudno, Hout Bay and False Bay.When did these Stone Age inhabitants first come to Camps Bay? We do not know. Marine archaeologist Bruno Werz, excavating an underwater wreck in Table Bay ( Cape Town), found hand axes dropped by hunters butchering rhino somewhere between 1.4 million and 300 000 years ago. Fossil rhino bones and a rhino tooth were found in the sediment close by in what would have been a fertile river delta at a time when the sea level would have been ten metres lower than at present. Stone tools have been found at Cape Hangklip in False Bay that had been washed onto a wave-cut shelf well above the present shore line somewhere between 140 000 and 120 000 years ago.

Certainly carbon dating has shown that people were foraging in pools at Eland’s Bay more than 4 000 years ago, at Plettenberg Bay and Saldanha Bay 3000 years ago. Between 4 300 and 2 900 years ago people moved into caves. In Fish Hoek cave they buried their dead and painted hand prints on the cave walls. Did these tool makers and hunters also visit Camps Bay? Almost certainly.What do we know of them? We know that they looked like us. It is impossible to differentiate the 80 000 year old bones found in Klasies River in the Southern Cape from those of 20th Century South Africans. We know that groups of hunters and groups of herders existed side by side in the Peninsula.6 Both exploited the marine resources, hunted and caught seals. Both had similar sites with similar shell middens. The same area has relics of the hunters – their formally retouched stone tools, eggshell beads,a few ceramics and small game – as well as those of the herders – informal stone tools, large ostrich eggshell beads, lots of ceramics and domestic stock. The hunters remained separate from the herders on the fringes of pastoral society in a lower class or subservient status. More Camps Bay history on page 2

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