Graaff Reinet & Nieu Bethesda Palaeontology Route
Graaff Reinet & Nieu Bethesda Palaeontology Route

Palaeontology Route


Palaeontology Route Information

A story under every stone…..

It is almost impossible to believe the dry land of the Karoo was once a vast inland sea. This, along with the Karoo being as old as time, has resulted in many palaeontological discoveries, especially in the surroundings areas of Graaff-Reinet and Nieu Bethesda. Renowned palaeontologist, Andrew Geddes Bain, lived in the area from 1822 and it was here that he discovered the fossil of a large jaw filled with teeth which he named the “Blinkwater Monster”. The fossils found in this area have revealed much of the story of our land since it emerged from the Ice Age around 250 Million years ago.

Karoo fossils have a largely unbroken 50-million-year fossil record, covering a period from 240 to 190 million years ago, showing the evolutionary pathways and patterns of different animal groups through time.

One can also take day trips to fossil farms in the area where you will be able to observe evolution patterns both through a visit to the San rock-art located in caves on the farms and to fossil sites.

An extensive collection of fossils collected over a period of 18 years is displayed in the Old Library Museum in Graaff-Reinet, drawing the attention of scientists and the curious from around the world. Fossils can also be seen in the Graaff-Reinet Tourism Office, at the Kitching Fossil Centre in Nieu Bethesda and at Ganora Guest Farm and Wellwood Farm close to Nieu Bethesda. Bushman rock art can be seen at Ganora Guest Farm.

Take the time to discover the abundant historical and scientific evidence of early life in the Plains of Camdeboo.

Old Library Museum

hile limited privately sponsored library facilities were available in Graaff-Reinet from about 1818, it was not until 1847 that the citizens of the town established a public library, subscribing funds to build the central portion of the present building in Church Street. The plot of ground was later donated by the Government. Although initially the lack of adequate funds retarded the growth of the library, it developed over the years into the town’s cultural centre. By 1878 the original building proved inadequate, necessitating the addition of the southern wing. In 1926 the northern wing was added on the site of the old branddam (a stone reservoir kept full of water for use in the event of fire).
This building served the town as its library until 1981 when a modern library was built in Parsonage Street. The municipality donated the old building to the Graaff-Reinet Museum which now uses it to house specialized collections. It was proclaimed a National Monument on 27 February 1987.
In 2005, with the assistance of the National Lottery Distribution fund, the Board of Trustees of the Museum developed the building to include conference facilities and exhibition areas to portray the history of the previously disadvantaged community of Graaff-Reinet.
The building contains the following exhibitions: Karoo Fossils, Slavery – long road to restitution, rock art and artifacts, achievers of Graaff Reinet and the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe display.

This museum contains the following exhibitions:

Karoo Fossils, Slavery – Long Road to Restitution, rock art and artifacts, achievers of Graaff Reinet and the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe display.

Wellwood Farm

The fossil collection that was started by Dr. Sydney Rubidge is the pride and joy of Wellwood and is housed in a building on the farm. While the Karoo can boast many attractions, this is one that should not be missed.

Marion Rubidge invites guest staying on the farm to see the collection and have tea whenever possible. The collection is a treasure trove of creatures long forgotten 200+ Million years ago. a rich source of information of our prehistoric past that is still used by many universities here and overseas.

Please note that this museum can be visited by overnight guests only.

Nieu-Bethesda

The Ganora Fossil Museum

This museum just outside of Nieu Bethesda was registered in 1998 and, although small, houses mainly the finds we have made on Ganora. The fossils we exhibit are on average about 280 million years old. That was in the time when reptiles roamed the earth before the age of the dinosaurs.

You will also see small models which give an indication of what these reptiles looked like. We also have fossilized leaves from the Glossopteris trees which formed the coal which is mined in South Africa today. The Compasia dela Harpi fish fossil is also on show in the museum, of which we are very proud as it is the only complete example of this fossil in the world. Children also enjoy the museum and we explain things in such a way that they can understand and value the information.

We also have a fossil workshop where children can build their own reptiles with recycled products. This workshop needs to be booked in advance.

Ganora Fossil Walk

After a visit to the fossil museum where we explain all our discoveries, you are welcome to go on a fossil walk with JP.

On the fossil walk JP will show you sites where he has discovered various prehistoric animal fossils which have been covered in mud to be preserved as the fossils that you can experience today. You will also see evidence of the rivers that flowed in a northerly direction in the time when the continents were joined to form Pangea.

The walk is not strenuous as you drive from one point to another. The Karoo contains fossils of the mammal-like–reptiles which lived in the basin on average 280 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs of only 140 million years ago. Here you will come across our Gorgonopsian, some Dicynodon remains, evidence of mud slides, remains of the bottom of an old lake and even view bushman etchings.

You are welcome to order sunset drinks and snacks to be enjoyed in the veld. These excursions must be booked ahead of your arrival at Ganora.

Kitching Fossil Centre

For further information visit the Nieu-Bethesda web site http://www.nieu-bethesda.com



Palaeontology Route Map


Palaeontology Route Points of Interest

  • While limited privately sponsored library facilities were available in Graaff-Reinet from about 1818, it was not until 1847 that the citizens of the town established a public library, subscribing funds to build the central building in Church Street.
    Phone: 049 892 3801
    Visit Website
  • An original collection of family history; this is an impressive collection of artefacts of the past. The farm has been in the same family for 5 generations and is a trove of information.
    Phone: 071 8688146
    Visit Website
  • The fossil collection that was started by Dr. Sydney Rubidge is the pride and joy of Wellwood and is housed in a building on the farm. While the Karoo can boast many attractions, this is one that should not be missed.
    Phone: 049 840 0302
    Visit Website
  • The Ganora Fossil Museum in Nieu Bethesda was registered in 1998 and, although small, houses mainly the finds we have made on Ganora. The fossils we exhibit are on average about 280 million years old. That was in the time when reptiles roamed the...
    Phone: 049 841 1302
    Visit Website

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