The Institute of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the University of Tübingen has been conducting archaeological investigations in the Geelbek Dunes since January of 1998. The Geelbek dune field lies approximately 90 km north of Cape Town, only several kilometers from the Atlantic coast. Stone artifacts and animal bones can be found on many of the large surfaces between the hills of mobile sand. Funded with a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Science Foundation), the project intends to achieve the following goals:
- the discovery, recovery and analysis of the Stone Age remains with special attention paid to the spatial distribution of finds,
- the investigation of the local geology (including absolute dating methods) and its connection to the archaeological finds,
- and the recovery of data useful in the reconstruction of the Pleistocene and Holocene palaeoecology.
According to the latest hypothesis, Southern Africa is the cradle of anatomically modern Homo sapiens, a species which subsequently left Africa and settled the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the rest of the world. Thus, according to many researchers, this hominid species is the ancestor of all humans living today. Archaeological sites in Southern Africa therefore provide important information about the emergence of modern humans. Finds such as the fossilized footprints in Langebaan, the MSA bone tools in Blombos Cave, the open-air locality of Elandsfontein and the recently discovered hominid remains of Hoedjie's Punt have placed South African archaeology at the forefront of the field. The Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the University of TŸbingen is continuing research in the Geelbek Dunes. New discoveries here will augment the already important discoveries made in the Western Cape and South Africa, areas which are represent an important chapter in human prehistory.