Wonderwerk Cave – 2016

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2018 SAIA Award of Merit

Under the protection of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), Wonderwerk Cave National Heritage Site is an ancient solution cavity within the dolomitic Kuruman Hills of the Northern Cape, extending 140m horizontally into the base of the hill. Evidence of natural sedimentation (as a result of water, wind, animals, birds and human ancestors) goes back some 2 million years and recent research suggests the oldest record of controlled fire. The archaeological significance of the site has placed it on the cusp of world heritage status.
The site attracts researchers from around the world and fears of collapse, damage and injury initiated the installation of a new walkway, providing safe access for researchers and visitors, and protection to the site and its resources.  The new steel and timber structure rests on a series of concrete sleepers and relies on its own assembled weight for stability. It can be dismantled and removed to leave no trace.
The cave interior was surveyed carefully by the Zamani Project (from the University of Cape Town’s Geomatics Department) which provided a detailed terrain on which to map the plan of the new walkway, the tectonic of which is suggestive of both the archaeological workings and the museological findings, adding another narrative to the site’s ancient palimpsest, where artefact, museum and laboratory are folded into one.