Peers Cave Archaeological Hike
Peers Cave or Skildergat as its also known as, over looks the valley of Fish Hoek. The cave is South facing and is protected from the Northerly winter storms, making it an ideal place to shelter for early stone age people. Peers Cave is an easy hike and can be accessed from two different locations. One access point is at the Fish Hoek sports fields and entails hiking over the sand dunes and then quite a steep climb up to the cave.
The second and easiest access point is just past the Silvermine Village turn off, coming down Ou Kaapse Weg. This route will take you around 20 minutes to get to the caves and is around 3km round trip. The parking (34°06’47.2″S 18°23’54.0″E) is to the left as you come out of the bend. The parking can be busy here on weekends. Some hikers and climbers park at the Silvermine retirement village (34°06’32.6″S 18°23’59.2″E) and walk to the entrance of the hike. This was our departure point for this hike. Book a guided tour of Peers Cave.
Is Hiking To Peers Cave Safe?
There have been numerous reports of muggings and attacks in the area around Peers Cave. On the day we did this hike we saw no one around other than SanParks rangers. The car was parked on the side of the road at Ou Kaapse Weg with no issues. For further updates and information regarding safety on hiking trails.
Hiking To Peers Cave
The trail to Peers Cave is not well marked and there are signs that people have been squatting in the area with litter strewn around. You need to take the path that heads to your left hand side of the sign board. From here it is a gentle meander to the Peers Cave. The scenery is beautiful and you look out towards the Noordhoek valley and down into the Fish Hoek valley. This hike will allow you to see both the West and the East coast lines of South Africa. Indigenous fynbos can be seen along the trail as you get closer to the caves
There are some amazing rock formations and rock overhangs in the area. Rock climbers also frequent Peers Cave and you can see the metal rings in the rock face marking the various climbing routes. There are 6 different routes to climb with various grades on offer ranging from easy too hard.
Arriving at the caves you will start to notice the human presence in the area. People have camped out over night and traces of numerous fires can be found. Wastrels have also seen fit to add graffiti to the rock faces.
The first caves you discover are known as the Cave of Ascension. This smaller cave was a ritual cave, associated with fertility and rebirth, and was held sacred. The hike continues on towards the larger Peers Cave.
The main cave is large and has sadly been destroyed over the years by visitors to the area. There is a lot of fire damage inside the main cave and the rock art that was originally in the cave is all but gone. What has happened to Peers Cave you might wonder? Let’s take a look at this caves forgotten history.
Archaeological History Of Peers Cave
Forgotten by the world in general, Peers Cave was home to the most Southerly rock paintings on the continent of Africa. The cave has been occupied on and off for the last 200 000 years. The cave is named after Victor and his son Bertie Peers who excavated the cave between 1927 and 1929 using picks, shovels and dynamite. Neither Victor nor Bertie were trained archaeologists and the damage they did can still be seen on the walls of the cave today and in the surrounding area.
What the Peers family discovered as they dug down to about 1.5m below the caves surface, was a shell midden dating back to the later stone age period. It was in this section of the cave that they discovered the skeletons of two nearly complete adult females and four children tucked away in the cavities off the rear wall of the cave. Another two skeletons were later discovered dating back to the middle stone age just below the shell midden level.
The final skeleton, known as the “Fish Hoek Man” was described as a male of around 30 years of age. The ‘Fish Hoek Man” stood 1.57m in height. Well preserved human remains from the middle stone age period were extremely rare to find at the time of the Peers Cave excavation. The cranial bones of the “Fish Hoek Man” have been dated back to 12 000BP.
What is BP? The ages are expressed in years before present (BP) where “present” is defined as AD 1950.
When was the middle stone age? The Middle Stone Age was a period of African prehistory between the Early Stone Age and the Later Stone Age. It is generally considered to have begun around 280,000 years ago and ended around 50–25,000 years ago
Work at the cave ended in 1929 after a depth of about 3m had been excavated. The work that the Peers did was poorly documented and the vast majority of the stone implements and all non human bones were simply tipped down the slope where it lays to this day. Several research projects have since been under taken but very little remains published about Peers Cave.
The skeletal remains of the dead that were disinterred today lay in cardboard boxes forgotten in the South African Museum in Cape Town. Peers Cave, a sacred ancestral burial site today lays desecrated and forgotten by most people.
As I sit at Peers Cave and look over the valley of Fish Hoek, where I grew up, I can’t help but wonder what we lost in the destruction of this sacred cave and if we gained any knowledge at all from the past inhabitants of this cave.
Planning another hike the area? Why not look at hiking Chapman’s Peak?