Archaeological Sites

Wonderwerk Cave

Spectacular photograpgh of Peter Beaumont looking down into one of the excavations in Wonderwerk Cave

About 43km north of DaniŽlskuil on the road to Kuruman (and about 43 km south of Kuruman), on the farm "Wonderwerk" (meaning "miracle"), this natural wonder awaits your visit.

Entrance of caveThe cave is 139m deep and archaeologically of considerable importance.  The cave is so big, it used to be boasted that a wagon and team of oxen could turn around in the entrance.  An information centre with colourful displays introduces the rich history of Wonderwerk Cave.

Archaeological research at this massive cave site has revealed an immensely long record of human and environmental history spanning hundreds of thousands of years. The cave, which is a National Heritage Site, and its surrounds, form a conservation area with several features distinctive of the Kuruman Hills. The site is open to the public and includes an interpretive centre adjacent to the cave. The turn-off to Wonderwerk Cave is well sign-posted about 43 km from Kuruman along the Kuruman-DaniŽlskuil road (it is about the same distance from DaniŽlskuil): a tarred road leads up to the entrance to the servitude on which the site is situated. An entrance fee is payable at the gateway to the site: visitors will be accompanied by a guide. Accommodation (there are now three chalets sleeping four people each) and refreshments are available by arrangement. Contact

Wonderwerk Cave is an ancient solution cavity, exposed at one end byInside the cave hillside erosion, and running horizontally for 139 m into the base of a low conical foothill on the eastern flank of the Kuruman Hills. Its geological context is stratified dolomitic limestone of the 2.3 billion year-old Ghaap Plateau Dolomite Formation. Permanent water sources in the area are presently limited to a seep some 5 km to the south on Gakorosa Hill and a large sinkhole now known as Boesmans Gat (meaning "Bushman's waterhole"), about 12 km away. 

A horn found in the caveResearch has shown that bedrock in the front portion of the cave is overlain by 4 m of deposits consisting of almost horizontal layers of wind-blown dust with a variable admixture of roof-slabs. Initial radiocarbon, Uranium-series and palaeomagnetic readings indicate that the uppermost metre of sediments, 45 m in from the cave mouth, spans the past 300 000 years, while extrapolation, based on that result, suggests that the lower levels range back very much further.  Palaeomagnetic evidence recently indicated that the base of the sequence may reach back as far as 1.77 to 1.95 million years.  If this dating is correct.)  The small irregular stone cores and flakes in those lowest levels could be Oldowan.  There is archaeological evidence of human occupation in all layers, making this one of the longest inhabited caves on earth.

Archaeological investigations here began in the 1940s, and were continued from the mid-1970s to the present. The McGregor Museum in Kimberley has been responsible for research at Wonderwerk since 1978. Previously, the renowned Maria Wilman, who was director of the museum, recorded the rock paintings in the cave entrance, in 1921. Material from the excavations of the 1940s has been returned to the Northern Cape, and all the excavated material from Wonderwerk Cave is now housed at the McGregor Museum, the province's principal research institution.  Current McGregor Museum research is being conducted in collaboration with a team headed by Prof Michael Chazan of Toronto, Canada, and Dr Liora Horwitz of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Information from: McGregor Museum: Telephone: +27 (0) 53 839 2706,  email

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Acknowledgements

Painting of an elephant near the cave entrance

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