Goliath's footprint is situated in this rocky outcrop. Photo credit: Iga Motylska
Stone Age rock tools
Many South Africans don't even know that there's a town named after the Dutch capital, and still fewer know about its intriguing African history and geological marvels. It's in this unassuming town, not too far from the border with Swaziland, that you'll come across Zama Sibeko, a maths and science teacher at a nearby school. Ask for Zama by name, as his reputation – and his extensive Stone Age rock tool collection – precede him.
Zama Sibeko with his Stone Age rock tool collection. Photo credit: Iga Motylska
His private collection of more than 1 000 Stone Age rock tools has been named a heritage site and can be viewed by appointment. Zama's passion is palpable as he explains and demonstrates how each tool was used. His enthusiasm for teaching becomes evident. There are hand axes, spear heads, various kinds of knives and a mortar too. He points to some that are still encased in a thick layer of mineralised sand, which he has carefully chiselled away in most cases. Zama estimates that he's dug up more than 1 000 rock tools, all of which were found on his private property, but there are more than likely thousands more buried in his garden and beneath his home.
The Stone Age rock tools found at the heritage site in Amsterdam, Mpumalanga. Photo credit: Iga Motylska
A short drive from Amsterdam is Goliath’s Footprint, a six-foot-high geological feature that captures the imagination of all who see it because it is shaped like a human footprint, with five perfectly formed toes. If you pre-arrange with Zama, he can take you there and will tell you of the African myths and legends that attempt to explain its existence.
Goliath's footprint is six feet high. Photo credit: Iga Motylska
Some people refer to it as God’s Footprint, others call it as Adam’s Footprint. While still others believe that it is proof that giants – like those described in the Bible and that feature in children's stories – once roamed the earth. The legend of e'Mpuluzi tells the tale of a female giant, who was 10 metres tall, according to the size of her footprint. She was running towards her lover when a volcano erupted killing her. Yet an imprint of her foot remained in the lava that later cooled and hardened and is still visible 100 million years later.
Many consider the site to be a spiritual place and come here to pray; while geologists claim that it's merely a geological feature, which just happens to be proportionally shaped like a female's left foot. The footprint is believed to have been flat on the ground, but has tilted upwards due to the movement of the earth.
Resting a few metres below the footprint is a large boulder shaped like a human skull, especially when the sun is at a certain angle. This further adds a mythical element to the storytelling, as locals believe that it is the lava-encrusted skull of e'Mpuluzi's lover whom she was running towards.
e'Mpuluzi's lover's boulder 'skull' and the surrounding valley. Photo credit:Iga Motylska
Whichever version you choose to believe, one thing is undeniable: it's a sight to behold as you stand on the rocky outcrop with Goliath's Footprint on the one side and the pine forests in the valley below.
Zama Sibeko: private tour operator