We believe that the low-tide kelp environment could well have been the crucible where humans learnt how to wade, swim and eventually dive. We think they made this progression by slowly following their favourite food source (quite likely abalone and crayfish) deeper and deeper into the forest, instead of walking miles down the coast. Kelp provides a wonderful floating platform that could help teach someone to swim – much like modern armbands do today.
The very recent discovery of a 2,300 year old skeleton in St Helena Bay near Cape Town is the first hard scientific evidence that suggests we may be on the right path. A bony growth in the man’s ear tells us that he spent a lot of time foraging under very cold water (this is still a very common condition experienced by divers today).
“Ten years ago, most people the world over thought that marine intertidal seafoods were a starvation resource, something that you’d go to when all of your other terrestrial resources were locked up by other people or were unavailable because of climate change or whatever. No one really thought this was a primary resource and that it was actually used so far back into the past.” But Marean’s groundbreaking research paper published in the prestigious journal Nature in 2007 “really up-ended a lot of our thinking about the coastline, how productive these coastlines were and how these people were able to survive here when they weren’t able to survive in other parts of Africa during some of the glacial periods”, he said. “Archaeological Treasure Chest” by John Yeld.