History and Heritage of the people of Franschhoek
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DECEMBER 17TH, 2009
Franschhoek is a beautiful, scenic valley in the Cape Winelands, and home to many of South Africa’s leading wine estates. It’s here that some of the world’s best wines are produced, and where visitors can explore the lush vineyards that were established hundreds of years ago. Franschhoek is one of the settled regions in South Africa, and carries a rich history that dates back as far as the 17th and 18th centuries, beginning with local dwellers, foreign settlers and slaves.
Franschhoek features many museums, monuments and places of cultural interest that reveal this fascinating history. While most people travel to the region to sample its fine wines and cuisine, it’s well worth visiting its museums too – such as the Huguenot Memorial Museum, the Museum van de Caab, and even the Franschhoek Motor Museum.
The history of the Huguenots in Franschhoek is well documented; however, the history of the original inhabitants of the area, the San and Khoi tribes-people, is not as well known. Read on to learn more about these early inhabitants, and be sure to visit the museums in Franschhoek for valuable insight into the history of the area.
The Khoikhoi and San Bushmen in the Cape
For thousands of years the Franschhoek Valley was inhabited by indigenous hunter-gather groups, known as the ‘San’ or Bushmen. Even further back than this, evidence of our human ancestors can be found in the stone tools they left behind and the rock paintings found in the mountains that surround Wemmershoek Dam, just a few kilometres outside of Franschhoek. Around two thousand years ago, nomadic Khoikhoi tribes moved down through Southern Africa and introduced the practice of herding.
With the Khoi now competing for the same resources in the winter rainfall region of the Western Cape as the hunter-gatherers, the San found themselves pushed towards the more arid mountain and desert regions. When European explorers entered into the Cape interior in the 17th century they noticed that various Khoi tribes passed through the Franschhoek region on a seasonal basis. It would primarily have been the Cochoqua that used the Berg River Valley as grazing land for their stock. This tribe consisted of two branches: one led by Oedasoa who inhabited the Mosselbank River (west of the Perdeberg), and another under the chieftainship of Gonnama who lived along the Berg river (in the vicinity of present day Riebeeck-Kasteel).