Two pupils from Mossel Bay’s Point High School – Marizaan Beukes and Johan Venter – will represent South Africa at The Global Travel & Tourism Partnership’s annual conference in Nice, France, from the 21st to the 26th of November.

The team – which includes Point High tourism teacher, Marinei Bester, who will travel with Marizaan and Johan – placed first in the South African leg of The Global Travel & Tourism Partnership’s worldwide research competition. The theme for this year was ‘Technology and Sustainability.”

“We chose the archaeology of the Pinnacle Pointe Caves as our topic: ‘Technology from 100,000 years ago … to the present and beyond … that’s Sustainability!’,” said Ms. Bester.

The Caves have revealed the earliest evidence for modern human behaviour, and have become an important component of Mossel Bay’s tourism offering. They’re situated in the cliffs beneath the golf course at Pinnacle Point Beach & Golf Resort, 12 km west of Cape St. Blaise. They’ve been the focus of research into the climate, environment, ecology, and anthropology of the Middle Stone Age in the Southern Cape since they were introduced to science by the consulting archaeologist, Dr. Peter Nilssen, in 1999. Dr. Nilssen and Jonathon Kaplan, the director of the Agency for Cultural Resource Management, discovered the middens in the Caves during an archaeological survey of the land on which the golf course would later be built.

The research team has been headed by Professor Curtis Marean, an associate director of the Institute of Human Origins and professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, since the first test excavations were made in 2000, and the project is currently the largest of its kind in the world.

“Amongst other things, the archaeology of Mossel Bay has revealed the earliest evidence for the manufacture of tiny, perfectly proportioned stone bladelets that were embedded into other materials like bone or wood to create more advanced tools than humans had ever had at their disposal,” said Dr. Nilssen. “It’s also revealed that this was where humans first used controlled fires to heat and anneal silcrete, and so turn a common, but otherwise unsuitable stone, into a first-rate material for making excellent quality blades.

“These discoveries firmly place Mossel Bay as the birthplace of modern technology.”

Dr. Nilssen emphasised the delicate nature of the finds, and the need for their preservation and conservation. “They have to be protected as the rare, precious, and irreplaceable resource they are: they’re one of only a very few windows into humanity’s collective modern origins.”

Ms. Bester said that the pupils researched how the managers of the Pinnacle Caves can work together with the owners and managers of the Pinnacle Point Golf Course to ensure that the Caves remain sustainable as a tourist attraction.

“We also looked at how Mossel Bay as a whole can work with the Pinnacle Point Caves to accommodate more tourists who want to see how life was lived so long ago.”

She said that Marizaan and Johan will face eleven other countries in the finals of the competition during the conference in France, when they will be expected to make a 20-minute presentation about the Garden Route and Mossel Bay as tourist destinations, and also to present their findings about Pinnacle Point.

“We now have to turn our project into a full research paper with a case study and assessment questions, and we have to develop the PowerPoint presentation we’ll be using in Nice.”

She said the members of the team are very excited about their forthcoming trip – but a little intimidated too. “We’ll be competing against big countries like the UK, the USA, Canada, Brazil, and Hungary!”

Mossel Bay Tourism board member Fred Orban – who coordinates the Point of Human Origins Experience (the only tours of the Pinnacle Point Caves, which are presented by Dr. Nilssen in partnership with the Pinnacle Point Homeowners Association, the SACP4 Project headed by Prof. Marean, Heritage Western Cape, and the South African Heritage Resources Agency), congratulated the team.

“The future is always best protected by the young, and it’s exciting to see that young people in Mossel Bay are paying attention to the incredible importance of our distant past as it has been revealed at Pinnacle Point and other, similar sites in South Africa,” he said.

“The philosophy behind the Point of Human Origins Experience is that if it’s important for us to know where we’re going, it’s important for us to know where we’ve come from.

“We’re very proud of Marizaan, Johan, Ms. Bester, and Point High for winning the South African competition, and we look forward to congratulating them on beating the world.”