Work on having the Pinnacle Point Caves at Mossel Bay, where Professor Curtis Marean of the Arizona State University and his team of archaeologists found amazing evidence of occupation by Middle Age people between 170 000 and 40 000 years ago and the earliest evidence in the world so far of the systematic exploitation of marine resources and symbolic human behaviour, declared as a World Heritage Site has begun in all earnest.
The Mossel Bay Municipality has also firmly declared its desire and commitment to accommodate an interpretive centre for the World Heritage Site should this become reality.
The Mossel Bay discoveries will be included in a serial application for World Heritage status together with some other significant archaeological sites along the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal coasts. The application is co-ordinated by Heritage Western Cape.
The South African World Heritage Convention Committee, which oversees such applications fromSouth Africa, recently held a meeting in Mossel Bay. Their visit to Mossel Bay included a field trip to Cave 13 B at Pinnacle Point under the guidance of Professor Marean.
They also visited the old stone quarry site at the Point, which the Municipality has identified as the location for the proposed interpretive centre, or gateway for the World Heritage Site as this type of centre is also called. Such centres are built to display artefacts as well as informational displays on the sites concerned.
At a dinner hosted by the Executive Mayor, Alderlady Marie Ferreira, for the SA World Heritage Convention Committee members and other local guests, the Mayor made a strong plea for Mossel Bay as the location for the interpretive centre.
She emphasised Mossel Bay’s ideal location and good existing infrastructure for such a centre that would be a huge tourist draw card. The Mayor emphasised the dependence of the local economy on tourism and how it would create much-needed employment in Mossel Bay.
The delegates were also informed of the precinct plan for the upgrading of the Point area into a tourism icon and that the interpretive centre would fit in well with the Municipality’s planning in this regard. The site for the interpretive centre has been incorporated in the precinct plan. The plan has been completed but is still subject to Council approval.
It was pointed out that it could take five years or more to obtain World Heritage status. However, work has in the meantime started on obtaining Provincial Heritage Site status, as well as National Heritages status later on, for the Mossel Bay discoveries.
The Municipality is working closely with Heritage Western Cape, Mossel Bay Heritage, Mossel Bay Tourism and other interested parties in this regard. A business plan will also be submitted to the Western Cape Department of Culture and Recreation for possible funding of the interpretive centre as well as other projects related to the upgrading of the Point as a tourism icon.