About 250 000 bones, dated two to three million years BP, have been recovered here, but 30 are hominid re mains. Some fifty species of animals have been identified and, of the five different mon keys, one is a leaf-eater no longer found in South Africa. Fossil pollen confirms a time when the environment was lushly forested, and faunal re mains indicate browsers rather than grazers. It seems that Australopithecus afri canus, at first assumed to be only a savanna dweller, could
also adapt to the forest.
Raymond Dart's 'Osteodon tokeratic Culture' was dis cussed. Despite its rejection by later researchers, the killer ape idea was popularised by
In his best
seller, African Genesis - 'elo quent but badly flawed' is how Johanson describes the book
and this assured a long con
tinued interest which lingers still.
We also paused above the cavern at the plaque in mem ory of the late Brian Maguire, who worked extensively at Makapan.
The Cave of Hearths, first ex amined in 1947 by van Riet Lowe and excavated by Revil
Mason in 1953, preserves Earlier, Middle and Later Stone Age, Iron Age and His toric strata, rich In artefacts and hearths and with faunal and human remains. The hearth ash layers contain burnt bone and provide evi dence for the use of fire possi bly by Homo erectus. This of course is not nearly as old as the evidence for fire at Swartkrans.
A little up-slope is the historic cave, famous as the scene of the siege, by a Boer Com mando, of Chief Mokopane and thousands of his Ndebele people and their livestock. The siege which began on 25 Oc tober 1854 lasted almost a month. Some 3000 people were shot, or died from starva tion and thirst. Even today evi dence of these events is visible in the vast cave in the form of stone wall divides, basketry, pottery, sewn leather, axe handles, smoke blackened walls and roof, and even human and animal bones. The legend of the young Paul Kruger rescuing the body of Piet Potgieter - one of the few Boer fatalities - is featured in bronze at the base of the Anton van Wouw statue of Kruger on Church Square, Pretoria.
Early next morning we visited Buffalo Cave. Fossils from here, found by Broom in 1937, include an extinct small buf falo dated one to two million years BP, suggesting a drier savanna environment at that period, with grazing animals rather than the browsers of earlier times as represented at the limeworks.
To round off the weekend, hardier members walked out of the dolomites to the 90 m high resistant Black Reef Quartzite cliffs at the head of the Makapan Valley and swam in the pool above the waterfall which plunges 55 m to the valley below.
The return 'walk' was via the scree, nettles and a python to the base of the waterfall, and then a back-track out onto the plateau again! A final stop was for yet another swim before our return to the research house and camp site. The weekend at Makapan had pro vided an excellent mix of edu cation and recreation!
Extracts from Transvaal and
Natal Branch newsletters Ar tefacts 22(1) and Gnews 35. The song is reproduced by kind permission of the author, Dr Francis Thackeray.
THRILLERS AND ARCHAEOLOGY: A FIFTH TRENCH A.J.B. Humphreys
At intervals during the last decade and more I have produced for The Digging Stick (1 (2) 1984; 4(2) 1987; 6(1) 1989; 8(1) 1991) lists of popular novels which I have styled 'thrilrers and archaeology' because they involve archaeology as an important part of the setting for the crime or mystery. These lists have elicited sufficient positive response for me to put together yet another selection. As before, the quality of the books is variable but none falls within the 'luna tic fringe' of the popular image of archaeology.
One prominent archaeologist who shared my interest in detective literature and the past was Glyn Daniel, at one time Professor of Archae ology at Cambridge. In addition to his more scholarly works, Daniel wrote two detective nov els. One was referred to in an earlier list but Ihave recently acquired hisfirst excursion into this genre
Vol12 (3) Nov 1995
The Cambridge Murders (Penguin 1945). The
hero is a Cambridge archaeologist, Sir Richard Cherrington who, apart from solving the puzzle, is at one point in the story engaged in writing a paper for Antiquity, the Joumal of which Daniel was for many years the distinguished editor. The book is a very competent classic detective story well worth reading. One character makes the following comment: 'Archaeology, anthropol ogy, ethnology, prehistory. All most interesting. No money in them, though. Don't get you any where. Bad business. What?' Some things ap parently haven't changed in the last 50 years!
Jessica Mann who studied archaeology at Cambridge and has featured in these lists be fore, has also No Man's Island (Macmillan 1983 and Faith, Hope and Homi cide (Macmillan 991) both featuring Tamara
The Digging Stick