The West Coast Fossil Park preserves fossil evidence from approximately 5 million years ago. In 1998 a team of professional archaeologists and palaeontologists began excavating the current dig site that is open to the public. The site was chosen based on the fossils that were collected in this area by Dr Brett Hendey in 1975 and 1976 whilst the phosphate mine was in full operation. Dr Roger Smith heads up the current “public” excavation site which is dominated by numerous sivathere remains. The particular species of sivathere found here is named after Brett Hendey, Sivatherium hendeyi. Fully mature adults are estimated to have weighed up to 2000kg. A number of the fossils were removed and are now housed at the Iziko National Museum in Cape Town. However, some of the excavation has been preserved in situ (in their original place) so that members of the public can learn about this site and the amazing animals that have been discovered here.
Pliocene Garden Amphitheatre
Using evidence from fossil pollen and phytoliths scientists have been able to identify the kinds of plants that grew in this area 5 million years ago. Some of the closest modern relatives of these ancient plants have been chosen to attempt to recreate the environment of this area from 5 million years ago. It is in stark contrast to the Saldanha Flats scrubby fynbos that has adapted to the cooler, drier Mediterranean type climate experienced in this region today.
The Amphitheatre is available for hire for events and functions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
The most common large mammal fossil that has been collected from this site is that of a large giraffe-type animal called Sivatherium hendeyi. In Sivathere Hall, you will learn about the environment that they occupied, as well as the other kinds of animals that they shared their habitat with. The wall panels depict one day, from dawn to dusk, five million years ago, following the ancient Berg River from its source in the Franschoek mountains to where it entered the sea in Saldanha Bay when the sea level was about 30m higher than today.
The artwork is a combination of digital art, graphic art and photography with the magnificent life-size sivatheres sculpted by Egon Tania using “found” alien wood. Thus, in an innovative way, art and science have been brought together in this exhibition space.
This display is a reminder that there is much life in the earth beneath our feet.
Many of the animals that live beneath the soil are minute. For this reason, every mammal, reptile, spider and insect depicted in this space is shown a hundred and fifty times bigger than it is in real life
We know that aardvark, molerats, and tortoises were found here because fossilized bones, teeth and shells have been excavated at Langebaanweg.
Fossil evidence from around the world shows that all the major groups of invertebrate animals evolved, and were widely distributed over the earth, well before the time that the Laangebaanweg vertebrate fossils were living animals. We can’t be sure that the actual species represented in this display were present here five million years ago. They are found in the area today and it is likely that their ancestors were here five million years ago.