The rocky outcrops that dot great of SA’s coastline contain hidden adore: the cemented remains of the dune and beach surfaces that existed millions of years ago.
These cemented remains, or aeolianites, and the tracksites they contain, present a snapshot of the Pleistocene Epoch, which started around 2.6 million years ago and lasted till about 11,700 years ago.
During this time, what is today the Cape south flit looked very tons of. Our examine crew has stumbled on more than 300 vertebrate tracksites in these rock surfaces on a 350km stretch of this flit. The oldest surfaces are about 400,000 years old, and the youngest about 35,000 years old.
These kind of discoveries possess had crucial palaeo-environmental implications. As an instance, the presence of giraffe in the distance is handiest known by its tracks; this allows us to infer that as a minimum fraction of the panorama used to be savannah woodland.
This duration, and this objective, used to be crucially crucial for americans, too. At a preference of internet sites these rock surfaces present evidence for the set and how our ancestors walked, jogged, foraged, created photos in sand, or frail stone tools.
These surfaces are of profound scientific, cultural, heritage, environmental, and comely significance. Sadly, they are threatened — by graffiti.
Their moderately soft, friable nature ability that with nothing more than a hammer and a chisel, names and tons of photos may per chance well well well additionally fair additionally be etched into them. That poses a substantial chance to the underlying scientific information contained in these rocks’ surfaces.
Sadly, the amount of this kind of graffiti appears to be like to be to be increasing, as my colleagues and I from the African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience at Nelson Mandela University outlined in a contemporary journal article.
That’s no longer to say it’s an fully original phenomenon. One horrifying older instance is from the West Cruise Nationwide Park, about 120km outdoors Cape Town. Right here hominin tracks that famously grew to grow to be known as ‘Eve’s footprints’ factual skipped over being destroyed by graffiti. When researcher Dr Dave Roberts stumbled on the tracks in the 1990s, a graffiti artist had already been there, and had handiest narrowly refrained from defacing the tracks.
The slab containing the tracks used to be airlifted to the Iziko Museum in Cape Town to stable them from further vandalism.
Nonetheless, as we renowned in our paper, the tip end result used to be no longer as lucky at a slight cave west of Knysna, a town on SA’s Backyard Route.
Right here a mass of graffiti adorns a sloping cave floor that used to be as soon as a dune floor, obscuring what may per chance well well well additionally fair additionally be viewed of underlying trackways. Tragically, there is evidence to indicate that these too may per chance well well well additionally fair possess been hominin tracks, nonetheless we are able to no longer be certain.
The dune surfaces that our ancestors trod on grew to grow to be buried. Over time, they grew to grow to be cemented, and indirectly grew to grow to be re-uncovered on the flit. But today the descendants of those ancestral pioneers nick their initials into those surfaces without appreciating their globally important heritage charge.
Fossil tracksites seem to lend a hand the inventive speed in the graffiti artist, as etched graffiti appears to be like to be to happen more many times on or beside such internet sites. So, how can this misfortune be tackled?
Education and frequent awareness are crucial in addressing the anxiety, and lessons can maybe be learnt from the safety of rock paintings, which is additionally area to defacement by graffiti.
Signage at derive admission to points to areas of coastline may per chance well well well additionally fair abet, with catchphrases comparable to “Please don’t homicide in 5 minutes what took 120,000 years to create”.
Or even non-be conscious-bearing aeolianites (cemented dunes) may per chance well well well additionally fair additionally be placed at strategic derive admission to points, and americans may per chance well well well additionally fair additionally be allowed to nick their names on these surfaces if they need to.
These aeolianites are of major international significance, and as a outcomes of their heritage, scientific and comely charge, a terrific argument may per chance well well well additionally fair additionally be made for their safety.
Thinking of aeolianite surfaces as a kind of time pill may per chance well well well additionally fair abet: these are the very identical dune surfaces that our ancestors viewed and trod on after they had been beginning to think and act fancy us.
Charles Helm is a examine affiliate at the African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience, Nelson Mandela University