www.capetown.at Roddy Bray's Guide to Cape Town  
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Cape Town Prehistory
(Page 1)
The story of Cape Town must begin with Table Mountain. The mountain creates a rain shadow, providing rain and the streams that flow in its valleys. Small forests grow in the ravines and the mountain provides shelter. Soil has developed on the mountain slopes, in contrast to the sandy plains beyond. Without these vital elements the area would would not have attracted human settlement.

So our story of Cape Town begins by looking back in geological time to understand the birth of Table Mountain. Only then can we turn to the evolution of the Cape's fauna and flora and set the scene for the arrival of man.

Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains on earth, six times older than the Himalayas and five times older than the Rockies. It's story begins eight hundred million years ago when sandstone began to form underwater.

Sandstone is a relatively soft rock but it was given strength by magma rising from the earth's core. When magma reaches the surface it often forms a volcano, but in this case it stopped underground, cooled and formed hard granite. You can easily see granite rocks along the coast of the Cape Peninsula today.

Around 300 million years ago the mountain was still at sea level during an ice age and ice sheets flattened the layers of sandstone creating the flat surface that today we call the 'Table Top'.

When the continents split apart, stresses and pressures built up in the earth's crust. If the rocks of Table Mountain had been made only of sandstone they would have folded under the pressure, but the granite gave it strength, deflecting the forces down. Slowly this process forced the layers of rock to rise, slowly becoming the kilometre high mountain we know today.

Throughout its history, Table Mountain has been eroded by the action of wind, fire, ice and water. The flat face of the mountain is a cliff face, caused by the action of waves when the sea lapped against it. On the mountain you can find strangely shaped rocks and deep ravines caused by millions of years of erosion.

Over its long history Table Mountain would see great changes in the plant and animal life around it, and we now turn to this. Click for more on the geology of Table Mountain.
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In this period of Cape History:


Table Mountain

Plant and Animal Evolution

Human Evolution

Bibliography & Contacts


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