The area around FARMHOUSE58 is a landscape of superlatives.
To the east the oldest permanent terrestrial landmass on the planet, the Johannesburg Dome, has been lifted and exposed by tectonic uplift. Around you are some of the oldest undistorted sedimentary rock structures in existence. In fact, we will be sitting atop the 2.6 billion year old dolomites which made the oxygen that we breathe today.
To the south of us is the single biggest deposit of gold in existence and to the north of us is the single biggest deposit of platinum in existence. Sandwiched between the worlds two biggest precious metals deposits is the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. This area has produced the worlds biggest collection of the fossilised remains of the homonin line – our ancient ancestors.
Ever since the discovery of the Taung child in 1924 right up to the present day South Africa has produced a spectacular array of homonin fossils, more complete and in better condition than those from any other country. The story of palaeo-anthropology in South Africa is, in itself, a fascinating story of discovery – we will explore this story. The latest discoveries by Prof. Lee Berger in the Rising Star cave system not far from here have offered a fascinating insight into the sophisticated ritual behaviour of small brained homonins never previously thought possible.
It is not just the homonin fossils that make this area fascinating. Stone tools abound here tracing the evolution of human technology from 2,6 million years ago up to the present day. San art dating back many thousands of years – especially the rock engravings are to be found on dolerite boulders not far from here. Iron and copper smelters from the Iron Age about 1200 years ago up to about 350 years ago are scattered across the area.
There is ample evidence that the Difecane (the great crushing) under Mzilikazi was centred around the Magaliesberg and environs.
This is true of the Great South African War too. Two thirds of the battles fought in that war were fought within sight of the Magaliesberg mountains. The site of the Battle of Dwarsvlei is a couple of kilometres to the west from where we sit.
It is indeed an area with layer upon layer of history from the truly ancient right up to the present day – all to be found in a relatively small area. Reflect, Ponder, Enjoy.
Words by Howard Geach