Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Prehistoric site found in underwater cave


By Daniel Ashby

A team of international scuba divers have located an underwater cave which reveals "promising signs" of prehistoric human activity.

Maritime archaeologist Dr Bruno Werz described the site in False Bay on the Cape coast as "worthy of international exploration and excavation". He said: "The cave has the correct overhang and orientation for prehistoric cave dwellers.

It would have been raised above the landscape allowing the inhabitants to spot game and command a strategic view.

"There is evidence around the cave of the type of vegetation that prehistoric man would have eaten. These are all promising signs that we may discover traces of human activity in the cave.

"The archaeological search, named Operation Zembe (Axe), has been running for two years and ends on Saturday.

Described as the "Indiana Jones team" of diving, the 12 international members of Operation Zembe were selected from hundreds of applicants by the Scientific Exploration Society. Former Royal Marine Monty Hall, one of the divers who discovered an underwater city off India, is the skipper of Operation Zembe.

He said: "This kind of discovery is huge and should be commanding the attention of publications like National Geographic.

But we are trying to focus on generating local interest and so are currently working with (M-Net's) Carte Blanche.

"Should the cave reveal traces of prehistoric man, then scientists will be able to use the cave to do further geological and archaeological research. The cave could give an indication of the pattern of rising and falling sea levels and reveal new information about global warming.

It could also be used in the study of the movements and location of people. Interest in the False Bay area began in 1995 after Werz discovered the world's oldest underwater artefact.

The stone hand-axe was located in Table Bay and is believed to be between 300 000 to 1,4 million years old.

American dive rescuer Kevin Bateman said: "We are already planning to meet again next year to continue our work."

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