Ichnological (trace fossil) studies along the coast

The worlds oldest human trace fossil track way (modern humans) was discovered in 1964 at Nahoon Point, East London. The Nahoon Point Nature Reserve was partly established to protect these and other archaeological sites in the area. The human fossil footprints (preserved in coastal sandstone) have been dated to 124 000 years before present and detail the steps taken by a young child (possibly 7-9 years of age) as he/she walked down to the sea. The palaeo-surface preserving these prints also presents with animal trace fossil track ways of a bird, a scrub hare and possibly a mongoose.

Coastal aeolianites (sandstone) along the coast are worth investigating for the further preservation casts of human and animal track ways. Nahoon has produced additional discoveries in this regard. For this reason it had been assumed that other trace fossil track ways would be found along other parts of the coast. Work in this regard is being undertaken by museum scientist Kevin Cole.

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Persistent prevailing winds cause tons of sand to be moved, particularly in areas above the high water mark. This movement of sand may expose bedrock (a palaeo-surface) which could present trace fossil animal track ways and in some instances stone tools.

A number of these areas have been exposed recently and have been marked for further studies. Important would be to date the palaeo-surface to add a chronological context to the discoveries. Our entire coast should be declared a natural and cultural heritage site as reptilian fossils dating back 240 million years, coastal middens and Khoisan burial sites as well as many stone tool sites have been discovered over the years.

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About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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