Known for its natural beauty, wide-ranging history, and rich diversity, South Africa is home to a number of interesting historical sites. It is home to some of the oldest archaeological and human fossil remains in the world, and as such, makes for a fantastic visit for any history enthusiast. Here’s our pick of the best historic sites to visit in South Africa.
Fossil Park, West Coast
A little way up South Africa’s West Coast, close to Langebaan, is a collection of fossils that sound as though they stepped out of a Hollywood blockbuster – giant bears, sabre-tooth cats, short-necked giraffes, four-tusked elephants and three-toed horses. These five-million-year-old fossils date back to the early Pliocene era – possibly the most diverse fossil find of this era anywhere in the world.
Isandlwana Battlefield in South Africa was the site of the Battle of Isandlwana during the Anglo-Zulu Wars. The Anglo-Zulu Wars were in part an attempt by the British to repress the Zulu army so as to pave the way for the creation of a Confederation of South Africa which united all of the colonial entities into one unit. Today, memorials and markers show the points at Isandlwana Battlefield where British soldiers fell. There is also a small Isandlwana Battlefield museum at the visitor centre.
Over 1 000 years ago a great African kingdom known as Mapungubwe thrived at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers. The rise of Mapungubwe can be attributed to its well-organised agricultural system and trading relations with areas such East Africa and India. Mapungubwe holds one of the largest collections of ancient artifacts in Southern Africa. Objects made from gold, copper and iron, with the most famous being the golden rhino, were found in the area.
The national park is home to wildlife species such as elephants, lions and gemsbok. So, if you’re looking for a great wildlife safari with a touch of ancient history, you have to visit Mapungubwe National Park.
District Six Museum
District Six was a once lively, multicultural area of Cape Town until it was declared a white only area during Apartheid. It is now a barren landscape and an evocative reminder of the country’s divided history. There’s not much to see in District Six itself today, but to understand the true tragedy of the time the nearby District Six Museum is jammed packed full of information. Telling the story of those who lived through this time, visitors can explore how a neighbourhood which was once an outstanding example of communities co-existing and flourishing became a terrible story of Apartheid in practice.
uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, KZN
The Drakensberg is rich in San rock art (over 40 000 recorded individual images), paintings that give us an idea of the mythology, ritual and beliefs of a people who existed here long before Europeans arrived in the country.
The paintings, depicted in black, white and red pigments, have survived in out-of-the-way caves for at least 25 000 years to function today as pictorial journals telling of dancing, hunting, fighting and ritual trance scenes.
This collection is regarded as the ‘best understood rock art anywhere in the world’. Rather than narratives of daily activities, more recent interpretations of these drawings have revealed rich and complex subjects about the spiritual relationship between man, animal and a supreme being.
Experience South Africa’s rich history, from its turbulent past to its unique architecture and languages, by visiting these historical monuments.
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