In DepthArchaeology

Development threatens home of early humans

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Science  03 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6243, pp. 11-12
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6243.11

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Early humans lived in South Africa's Sibudu Cave for tens of thousands of years, leaving the first recorded evidence of many crucial technologies—including bedding, bows and arrows, and snares to catch small animals. Their artifacts offer crucial clues as to how early human culture developed. But now 21st-century humans seek to live next door to the formerly secluded cave, and archaeologists say a priceless record of our ancestors is in danger. A huge industrial and housing development is planned right next to Sibudu, which is located about 40 miles north of Durban. Within the last few weeks, archaeologists and their supporters have filed two appeals against a decision by provincial officials to approve the 621-hectare development. The plans call for heavy and light industry, two schools, and a mixture of houses and apartments comprising about 2700 housing units, right next door to the cave. Archaeologists say that proximity could be disastrous, and fear that residents gathering firewood along the nearby river or teenagers seeking a hangout would trample the cave's fragile stratigraphic layers.