APRIL 2016 Newsletter

BEETLES – or BUGS – to the rescue at SIBUDU

A stem-wilter beetle - or bug - has been released to control the invasive alien plants, pereskia aculeata, at the Sibudu Cave.

Dr Iain Paterson releasing the bio-control agent with Khanyi





 Why all this fuss about a plant?



Pereskia smothers indigenous plants and even kills large forest trees which collapse under the weight of the weed.

Infested forests become degraded ecosystems with very low levels of biodiversity – and the thorny weed also restricts access!



It is a “leafy cactus” and when you pull it up, any little bit of broken-off root will grow a new plant; if you chop it down, any little piece of stem or leaf will grow a new plant.  And it also spreads by seed dispersal.  “It is one of the worst weeds in South Africa” says Dr Iain Paterson who did the research on bio-control of pereskia at the Department of Zoology and Entomology of Rhodes University. These beetles were introduced to the local pereskia plants in various locations in South Africa last year - for the first time.  They are in great demand!   See: https://www.ru.ac.za/zoologyandentomology/research/biologicalcontrolresearchgroup



We have been deeply concerned about this invasive plant and on the 20th March contacted Dr Paterson on the off-chance that he could help.  When we explained that the Sibudu Cave is a world-renowned archaeological site – and also badly infested with pereskia - Dr Paterson decided to make it a priority and arranged to release the beetles/bugs on the 13th April onto pereskia plantsin a sheltered spot near the Cave. The beetles were donated by the SA Sugar Research Institute, and were brought to the Site by Kanyi Buthelezi (who had reared them), transported in plastic boxes with pereskia off-shoots. Dr Paterson hopes they will be established before the winter.

The little ceremony was attended, among others, by Karen Hope (DEA), Barbara Dunn, archaeologist from the Sibudu Trust, Kim Weaver, Community Engagement Officer of the Biological Control Research Group, also by a member of Working for Water (who funded the 7-8 year research before the insects were proved to be safe), and members of your Committee.

MANY THANKS TO ALL CONCERNED - to Dr Paterson and the rest of his team, to SASRI who provided the insects, to Kanyi who reared them and brought them to Sibudu, to Karen Hope from the DEA who authorised the release of the beetles, and to Mr John Dasa of the local community who welcomed us and allowed us to cross his property to get to the Site.


The Daily News covered the event. www.iol.co.za/dailynews/news/alien-wars-in-durban-cave-2010003     


This is the link to the video taken of the occasion, on site.    ttp://iol.io/bas51



While it is commonly referred to as a beetle, the stem-wilter does not chew but sucks, and so it is more correctly named a ‘bug’.

Why does this sound so unfriendly?

Is it the American use of the word ‘bug’ for all insects – like we use the words ‘nunu’ or ‘gogga’? Or is it the negative connotation as in ‘Stop bugging me’?

Dr Paterson usually refers to it as an ‘agent’ – real hero stuff like 007!



The insect was imported into quarantine at Rhodes University in Grahamstown about seven years ago and was subjected to rigorous host specificity testing that confirmed that the stem-wilter can only survive on Pereskia.

 It does therefore not pose a threat to any of our indigenous plants

  “The Working for Water” Programme (WfW) of the Department of Environmental Affairs: Natural Resource Management programme (DEA:NRM) has funded research into biological control of pereskia. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) granted permission to release the pereskia stem-wilter. Mass rearing efforts to produce large numbers of the new agent have been underway at Rhodes University and the South African Sugar Research Institute (SASRI).”

Eggs are black-brown and laid in batches of up to 30 on any rough surface. The tiny nymphs (less than 2mm in length) are first red but turn black after a few hours. The nymphs cannot fly but are very active and seek out Pereskia shoot tips to feed on. The nymphs go through four moults over a period of about 22 days before they reach the adult stage. Adults can fly, are about 13mm in length and are yellow and brown in colour.

The insect was released for the first time in September 2014 and is expected to reduce pereskia densities resulting in a return in indigenous biodiversity at previously infested sites. The biological control agent will therefore protect South Africa’s natural resources and the indigenous biodiversity of ecologically important areas.

PERESKIA     - more facts                                                       

It is also known as Spanish or Barbados Gooseberry, also as Lemon Vine (its flowers have a lemon scent) and as uqwaningi in Zulu. It was brought to South Africa as a botanical curiosity in 1858. It slowly naturalised, starting to grow in indigenous forests and coastal vegetation. It is a spiny, with long slender branches, somewhat like a bougainvillea. The young stems and leaves are semi-succulent with pairs of short, hooked spines. The older stems are woody with clusters of hard, straight spines 30-40mm long. It has been often used as an excellent barrier against intruders.







September Newsletter

The walk to Sibudu Rock Shelter which we hoped to
organise for Heritage Day has had to be postponed!

We are sorry to disappoint those of you who have asked to visit the Site, but the Sibudu Trust does not want any visits to the Sibudu Cave at present. Professor Lyn Wadley of the Trust writes:
Archaeologists are concerned about the effects of an increased footprint at the site because its dry, loose sediments are located on a slope and are susceptible to damage by trampling.
Your Committee, in support of the Sibudu Trust, is still busy with appeal and counter-appeals against the low-cost housing development right on the doorstep of the Sibudu heritage site.

We are advised not to rock the boat at present – we will keep you all informed!

Professor Wadley writes further:
Other archaeological sites have been destroyed or heavily vandalised when housing developments were built nearby. Peers Cave in the Western Cape is an example. People perceive it as a secret area within a public place, where they can hold unnoticed parties or meetings. Fencing is an unsatisfactory option. Experience elsewhere suggests that intentional exclusion of people causes curiosity and invites vandalism.
The most sustainable way to protect archaeological sites is to have caretakers who see them as resources. If Sibudu becomes a World Heritage site, there will be full-time custodians. If wisely cared for, it can become an important archaeo-tourism destination and educational centre. A site museum and theme park could be of economic benefit to the local community. When deciding on a course of action, South Africans must be cognisant that Sibudu cannot be moved in order to preserve it. It also has a non-renewable heritage resource that is only ours for as long as we cherish and protect it. http://theconversation.com/cave-that-carries-evidence-of-humanitys-first-cultural-exploits-is-under-threat-44797

We hope those concerned take note of what our Deputy Minister of Tourism said this last week:


Pretoria - The tourism sector has a huge potential to create jobs, says Tourism Deputy Minister Tokozile Xasa. Speaking on Tuesday at the Tourism Trade show in Singapore, Deputy Minister Xasa said the tourism sector was continuing to think innovatively about new and exciting ways to attract visitors. “This is exciting news …Especially in our townships and rural areas, cultural tourism is a niche that continues to offer opportunities,” she said…”it has very few barriers to entry for new businesses, especially when compared to other industries such as mining.“In addition, the sector is less capital intensive than most others while also being more reliant on human capital”.

She said the consistent increase in tourism arrivals over the past few years is testament to the success of a variety of initiatives from the side of government and in partnership with business. According to the national statistics agency, tourism made a direct contribution of R103.6 billion to the Gross Domestic Product in 2013, rising from R93.5 billion in 2012.
Domestic visitors contributed 57 percent of the total tourism spend in 2013, while international visitors contributed 43 percent.

 “The tourism industry employs 655 609 people directly and 1.5 million both directly and indirectly. One in every ten jobs in our country is supported by tourism,” Deputy Minister Xasa said. – SAnews.gov.za


We reprint (under creative commons) extracts from two articles printed in THE CONVERSATION (Africa Edition) by Professor Lyn Wadley, of the Sibudu Trust and the University of the Witwatersrand.
     We heard from Prof Wadley that: the first article was read by 19,000 people on the first       day. Most of the readership was international.

Sibudu, a rock shelter above the uThongathi River in KwaZulu-Natal, is one of South Africa’s most important archaeological sites. Its recent nomination for World Heritage status
demonstrates that it is of universal value, with heritage that belongs to all humanity.

A housing development has been approved next to the rock shelter, threatening the fragile archaeological site.
The fate of the cave has drawn global attention with international scientists and scientific associations offering to help support its survival.
For South Africans, the site creates tensions between a desire to save a precious heritage site and the sensitive issue of providing homes for the poor.


The ancestors of all humanity evolved culturally at sites like Sibudu.
Early modern humans developed complex thought patterns and symbolic behaviour in
southern Africa. Among its prolific finds, Sibudu has some of the earliest examples in the world of seashell beads, a wide variety of bone tools, bone arrowheads for hunting, use of herbal medicine, and
preserved plant bedding – all about 70,000 years old.
Archaeobotanists have identified seeds and charred wood from trees not found in the area today, and some plants that are valued for their medicinal properties. This establishes the antiquity of South Africa’s profound indigenous knowledge. Hunters brought the remains of many animals including extinct giant horse and buffalo to the shelter. It is therefore an environmental as well as a cultural archive…

Sibudu is on the UNESCO list as part of a serial nomination for World Heritage status together
with five other South African Stone Age sites. These sites inform us about the way early modern humans developed complex behaviour of the kind performed by people today. The South African Heritage Resources Agency nominated Sibudu as a National Heritage site. It was further nominated by the South African national government for World Heritage status.

The UNESCO document of July 2013, the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of
the World Heritage Convention, defines a World Heritage site thus:
The cultural and natural heritage is among the priceless and irreplaceable assets, not only of each nation, but of humanity as a whole.

Development threatens Sibudu
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs has authorised the building project. A low income subsidy housing estate with approximately 370 homes will be built on about 32 hectares within 300 metres of the centre of Sibudu.


There is a considerable contradiction between South Africa’s national nomination of Sibudu as a World Heritage site and the provincial granting of development rights nearby.



How do we know when people developed minds capable of solving problems in the way that we do today? Archaeologists cannot excavate human minds from the past: they can only recover the material remains created by those minds. In the case of the people of Sibudu Cave in KwaZulu-Natal, http://archaeology.about.com/od/shthroughsiterms/qt/sibuducave.htmwe can see that some items that they made required special skills that could only have been undertaken with minds like ours.

Mixing substances, like tempera paint, is one example of behaviour that involves the sort of brain power that we associate with people today. Sibudu’s people made paint from powdered ochre and milk extracts from wild animals because the process took place 49,000 years before the domestication of cows.
Because the Sibudu paint predates cattle farming, it must have been made from the milk of a wild bovid. Bones of bovids that are known to have been the prey of the early hunters, such as buffalo, eland, kudu, impala and duiker, have been found at the site.
It is clear that that this type of composite paint cannot be made from precise recipes because the attributes of natural ingredients, like absorbency, vary according to local conditions. An artist must decide on recipe quantities while assembling the paint mix, and may need to make changes swiftly to avoid spoiling the product.
The ability to do this implies long attention spans, a capacity for multi-tasking and the ability to plan the assembly of ingredients. Such behaviour, also inferred from the making of compound adhesives at Sibudu, implies complex cognition of the kind possessed by modern people.

Lyn Wadley is Honorary Professor, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at University of the Witwatersrand http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-the-witwatersrand

This article was originally published on http://theconversation.com on August 14th

July 2nd Newsletter



  1. 1.       Meeting with ILembe Council
  2. 2.       Article from UNESCO
  3. 3.       Sibudu Gardens – suggestions
  4. 4.       Example of a World Heritage Site Upcoming tour of the Site



On May 5th the Mayor of the ILembe Town Council and several Councillors met with the Friends of Sibudu and also members of the Sibudu Trust.     Presentations were made on the importance of the Sibudu/Sigudu Site and how it could be developed into a great asset to the local community – as well as to South Africa and indeed the whole world.

 Professor Lyn Wadley of the Sibudu Trust gave a slide presentation on Sibudu - a World Heritage Site.     

Professor Wadley described in fascinating detail some of the archaeological finds: for example she described, and showed photos, of fossilised reed bedding and how they had found insect repellent leaves carefully placed in it, and also the oldest artefacts ever found, world-wide.  She said too that the excavations showed there were fire-pits in the rock shelter 65-80,000 years ago and one of these had no traces of food like the others (bone and seed fossils) – but only some semi-poisonous herb!  Possibly for arrow-heads – or else medicinal. 

Another Trustee, Gavin Whitelaw, archaeologist and Chief Curator of the Human Sciences department of the Natal Musuem, spoke of the educational value of the Sibudu/Sigudu artefacts and how the Museum hosted public exhibitions and school visits that included activities like ‘rock painting’ sessions for children, and school children making shell necklaces or mixing the red-ochre and gum to make glue and so on.  Three scholars had spent a week at the Museum learning about its work last year. The Mayor cross-questioned him on how safe the artefacts were – and were they not being removed overseas? Gavin was firm about them staying safely in this Province!

Then Charlotte Mbali from Friends of Sibudu gave a slide presentation on the economic benefits that could ensue from both the archaeological site and the surrounding indigenous forest – an area of special natural beauty.  From Jean Stephenson came suggestions for a garden on traditional medicines   - very popular at present for cosmetics – and also an educational garden on dealing with the invasive alien plants which are a threat throughout the Province (see page 3).

The Mayor had arranged a bus to take everyone on a field trip to inspect the cave - a rock shelter under an amazing cliff overhang.  Friends of Sibudu offered an alternative programme for those who preferred not to make the trek, but the Mayor said firmly that ALL the Council would go together!  Afterwards the young people of the Core Drama Group put on their little performance, acting out hunter-gatherer family activities.  This is the group that performed on May 1st at the Ezemvelo Wildlife Open Day where we had a stand.

Prof Lyn Wadley wrote to us saying: Thank you most sincerely for making yesterday such a successful day. I have positive feelings about the day and the effect that it had on those attending. The riverside walk is most enjoyable and, with some labels on trees and detours to see various staged activities, it should be a great attraction in the future.


SIBUDU or SIGUDU?        

The correct Zulu name for the site is apparently SIGUDU and not SIBUDU! But all our official documents carry the name SIBUDU and so we must use this name officially,

BUT have decided to use both names Sigudu/Sibudu in casual documents !




By Nuria Sanz, archaeologist, Head and Representative of the UNESCO Office in Mexico and General Coordinator of HEADS – the Human Evolution: Adaptations, Dispersals and Social Developments programme.

The history of Stone Age research in coastal areas of South African dates back a century, but in the last twenty years there has been a burst of research activity in the region. This is, in part, due to better awareness of the importance of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) in our understanding of human evolution. This recent research has led to prominent investigations and studies on the MSA and has made this region of the world one of the most active research environments in matters concerning what can be referred to as cultural modernity (McBrearty and Brooks, 2000; Wadley, 2001; Conard, 2007; Klein, 2009; d’Errico and Stringer, 2011).

One of the key sites of the region is Sibudu Rock Shelter, which contributes to our understanding of MSA and the development of what could now be referred to as modern patterns of human behaviour. This is shown by a wide range of symbolic artefacts and technological innovations. Excavations at Sibudu have yielded personal ornaments, and the University of Tübingen’s excavations there reveal highly-developed lithic traditions (connected with stone) preceding and following the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort. The lithic assemblages of the earlier phases of the MSA at Sibudu are characterised by distinctive Tongati and Ndwedwe tools and other artefacts that document advanced lithic technology at the site, and question the notions that Still Bay and Howiesons Poort assemblage types are uniquely developed (Conard, 2012).

Other areas of investigation in the southern African MSA have also borne extraordinary results in recent years. Upon considering our understanding of the evolution of new patterns of subsistence during the Middle and Late Pleistocene, few regions have contributed as much to the ongoing debate as southern Africa.

These recent advances in research demonstrate the relevance of Sibudu Rock Shelter, its cultural innovations and its role towards developing culturally modern behaviour.

According to the World Heritage Paper Series, HEADS 33, Human origin sites and the World Heritage Convention in Africa (http://whc.unesco.org/documents/publi_paper_series_33_en.pdf), the international research community has identified Sibudu’s potential for future nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage List. This site justifies Stone Age research and the potential of being further researched, safeguarded and ultimately nominated for World Heritage status.

It is essential that this site be preserved and maintained, so that research can be furthered and can contribute to local communities. Its preservation and increased investigation will yield evidence of the great trajectory of our human development, cultural modernity and culturally modern behaviour; very few sites across the world reveal so much in this respect.ssss 


Gardens at the Sibudu/Sigudu site, if sufficient space is allocated, could offer the following opportunities:

  • EUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: An educational garden will enable visitors to have a physical and tactile experience, helping to provide a positive and tangible connection with the historical past in real time. Development, education and awareness programmes will benefit our schools and communities by increasing traditional knowledge, and at the same time encouraging the learning and understanding about conservation and the maintenance of biodiversity and its importance in the future.
  • ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES: Gardens will also offer fantastic economic opportunities by allowing for capacity-building of our human capital, both in the form of job creation (gardeners, cooks, cleaners) and more importantly entrepreneurial opportunities and private sector skills development through guiding, selling, and marketing. This is all complimentary to the theme of Sibudu.

The garden could include the following 3 concepts / zones:

  1.  FOOD GARDENS: An area with plants used the middle stone age, explaining their purposes. These would also be harvested for the ‘paleo-diet’ menus at an adjacent “Sibudu Hunter-Gatherer  Restaurant”
  2. MEDICINAL PLANTS and a traditional muti-nursery to create economic opportunities while allowing for a sustainable future usage and reduce pressure on the wild populations of these valuable muti plants.

This would include an area to cultivate popular plants for cosmetic and health care. (There are several examples of farms that have started already). Besides growing the plants for sale, a processing plant could be developed for cosmetics, soaps and organic remedies. There is already a large international demand for South African plants with the growth of the organic cosmetics industry. Eg: Veld's is a French skincare brand that uses the wealth of the South African flora to serve French cosmetic know-how and women’s beauty: www.veldsasia.com

Wild ginger is an example of a Muti plant that is easy to grow, extinct in the wild due to over harvesting and has great economic value - Wild ginger, or isiphephetho, is mixed with other plants for respiratory infections such as flus, colds, and is also used for pain, probably having anti-inflammatory properties from the essential oils it contains.


“AFRIGETICS   Bulbine MAX 5:1 contains our unique Bulbine natalensis 5:1 plant extract which our in-house blood tests have shown will improve testosterone by 35% in 14 days.” Bulbine frutescens organic leaf extract has natural and remedial benefits. It is soothing, healing, moisturising and contains anti-bacterial properties.

  1. AN INVASIVE ALIEN PLANT demonstration area – to help educate people on identifying and getting rid of these problem plants that are destroying large areas of our indigenous vegetation, which loss also adversely affects our birds and butterflies and other creatures.

                                                              (From an article by Jean Stephenson)




On Heritage Day, 24th September, the Friends of Sibudu are planning a guided tour of the site.

Members of the Friends of Sibudu Association will be offered preference and special rates and will be contacted individually.


E-mail: [email protected]  Website: www.sibudu.net

2. Jun, 2015

GOOD NEWS: World Heritage Status for Sibudu Cave?

On 15 April 2015 the National Department of Environmental Affairs lodged with UNESCO an application for the Sibudu Cave to be listed as a World Heritage Site and it is currently on the UNESCO tentative list. (See Annexure 4 attached - submission documentation downloaded from the Unesco World Heritage Council website www.whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/6050).

… African heritage recognition should highlight cultural achievements and the role of Africa in the development of humankind, and its role in enriching common global civilisations

(Recommendations, Second Global Strategy meeting, UNESCO, 1997:143)

This submission also puts forward for the listing of 5 other significant archaeological sites in South Africa, stating that

“Each of the proposed sites is significant in its own right in terms of its contribution to the knowledge we have about the origins and behaviour of early modern humans.

When all this information is combined with the greater story of modern human origins it is certainly significant on a global scale.



With our partners, Friends of Sibudu are appealing against this decision and suggesting how Sibudu World Heritage Site could become a draw-card and asset to the local community as well as to the Province and South Africa. The site could include, for example, a Heritage Museum, Nature Reserve and a Theme Park, with gardens for indigenous medicinal plants.It could become a centre for tourist and educational activities!

2. Jun, 2015


Those of you who have been to the Sibudu Rock Shelter site know that is an area of particular natural beauty –

Would you be surprised to learn that 47 indigenous plants (trees, scrambling shrubs, shrubs, forbs , groundcovers, ferns grasses) have been identified in that vicinity, including the Redfruit White-stinkwood or Natal Elm - A RARE TREE – called uZinhlu in Zulu. (Celtis mildbraedii;).

In an article by Geoff Nichols in The Grapevine 28/07/2010, he says that : this Celtis mildbraedii tree, which is about 150 years old, is at the mouth of the Sibudu Shelter on the Tongaat River. Archaeological investigations here have exposed occupation debris from people of the Iron Age lying directly on Middle Stone Age deposits.
Geoff has identified seeds from this site dating back over 50 000 years!!


These include Pereskia aculeata, shown here in a photo taken at Sibudu:

It is also known as the Barbados gooseberry; leafy cactus, Spanish gooseberry in (English) and uqwaningi (isiZulu)

This plant is very difficult to eradicate as it is a cactus, and it can sprout from a twig, or leaf, or stump of a root!

– A new biocontrol

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), in September 2014, granted permission to release a beetle, the pereskia stem-wilter, in South Africa, after careful research at Rhodes University. Trials are also underway in Pinetown!
This is one of the insects that feeds on pereskia in Brazil.
Mass rearing efforts to produce large numbers of the new agent are in hand. (Newsletter: Invasive Species South Africa eNewsletter Oct 2014)