The Cape St. Blaize Cave, situated on the cliffs directly below the St. Blaize Lighthouse is an important archaeological site, and a popular point for whale and dolphin watching.
George Leith excavated it in 1888 (making it one of South Africa’s earliest archaeological excavations), as did T. Rupert Jones (1899), and A.J.H (John) Goodwin (in the 1920s). More importantly, though, the Cave has revealed middens laid down by the San or Khoekhoen people in the period from about 200,000 years ago to the pre-colonial age (i.e. pre-1488).
More recently, parts of the Cave were explored in the late 2000s by scientists of the Mossel Bay Archaeology Project (MAP). The MAP is the largest scientific project of its kind in the world today, and is studying the finds at various sites in the Southern Cape - most importantly, at the Pinnacle Point Caves (which are not open to the public).
Genetic research has shown that all humans alive today stem from a core population of about 600 individuals who lived about 165,000 years ago. The discoveries in the Pinnacle Point Caves would indicate that they lived in the Mossel Bay area.
Significantly, the scientists have also discovered that the dripstone formations in the roofs of the caves hold fossilised carbon isotopes dating back to about 450,000 years ago. These fossilised carbon isotopes hold the key to unlocking information about the quality of the water that seeped into the caves over the millennia. This information in turn reveals the kind of plant material that would have grown in the soil above the caves - which, in its turn again, tells us much about the type of food that was available to the people living in the caves over the ages.
In other words - by combining the picture of what was happening on the floors of the caves (i.e. in the human story) with what was happening above the caves (i.e. in the climate) - the scientists hope to learn how modern humans adapted to climate change during the period from about 165,000 years to 30,000 years ago.
The Cape St. Blaize Cave is always open to visitors. Signs on site provide general information about the archaeology.
The approach to the Cave also forms the start of the St. Blaize Hiking Trail (a 13.5 km contour path leading westwards to Dana Bay).
For more information on the archaeology of Mossel Bay, please go to www.visitmosselbay.co.za/archaeology