What makes us human?
What makes us different from our primitive ancestors and our furry friends? We are the same flesh and blood and we go through similar life stages – we even socialise and learn in very much the same ways – so what makes us different?
As you might expect, the answer is not straightforward and it has in fact been debated for centuries by scientists and philosophers alike. One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that it has something to do with our way of thinking and feeling – a unique attribute of the human mind.
We know that about 160 000 years ago modern humans started developing certain skills that set us apart from our earlier ancestors. We developed higher mental capacities such as abstract and symbolic thinking, and this brought forth a cultural change that separated human culture from social learning in animals.
Where is the proof?
We sometimes think that the evidence of this change is locked up in a glass cage in some museum, but the truth is that proof of our humble beginnings is all around us. We just don’t know where to look and what to look for.
There are a few special places in Southern Africa where you’ll still find evidence of the emergence of modern humans. At Sandpiper Cottages we are very fortunate to have one such a place in our backyard. Evidence of abstract thinking, symbolic behaviour, tool making and craftsmanship have been found all around Pinnacle Point and the greater Mossel Bay area. Finding the clues can be tricky though and you would probably need an archaeologist’s insights. You’d probably need someone like Dr Peter Nilssen.
Dr Nilssen has a PhD in archaeology and is part of the team researching what has come to be known as the Point of Human Origins, close to Sandpiper Cottages. People come from all over the world to experience the story of our origins through tours led by Dr Nilssen and daily cave visits led by his trained guide. We have a good relationship with Dr Nilssen and we’ll happily organise tours or have him over for a talk at one of our ‘Klanke, Kultuur & Kaggelkos’ evenings.
How do I get involved?
If you ever feel the need to return to your roots, or you’re just curious about the story of modern human origins, come and stay at Sandpiper Cottages and check out Dr Nilssen’s insightful talks and tours. After your journey into the past, come and join one of our ‘Klanke, Kultuur & Kaggelkos’ evenings where we can all discuss where we came from, think about where we’re going and appreciate what it means to be human in the present moment.