Vestiging langs die Vaalrivier in die omgewing van die Vredefortkoepel, 1840–2012
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The settlement history of the Vredefort Dome can be described as a process of cultural development. The Vaal River hydrosphere, which was for many years a prestigious settlement site, initially attracted large scale game and later livestock farmers. The drifts were a central part of a network of early strategic communication routes and outspans. From 1838, pioneer settlement, farm occupation and agricultural development followed, and the area eventually entered an agriculture-mining era. Gold-mining stimulated the regional economy and also played a significant role in the development of towns in the area. The Vaal River did not play a significant role from a mining perspective, but featured more prominently in the development of villages and, in a sense, served as a political boundary. The location of the water source often determined where people settled permanently. It also decided the position of the house and yard. From the outset, riparian dwellers attempted to manipulate the flow of the river by creating dams and utilising water for irrigation and domestic purposes. Drought conditions also left historical traces; water management projects upstream transformed the Vaal River into a steadily flowing stream, which led to the economic and cultural segregation of north and south. Man's fear associated with drought (too little water), floods (too much water), meteorology (the necessity of water), and the role of the supernatural (divining water) and superstition (the water snake stories) were expressed in the interaction between people and this water environment. A wide variety of people with distinct cultures lived alongside each other in the area. Western and African cultural goods, as well as customs and beliefs, were mutually adopted by these different cultural groups as a result of this contact. The way land has been used in the Dome area has evolved over the years. The culling of game made way for the permanent establishment of the livestocktravelling farmer. Hereafter prolonged drought conditions destroyed pastures and, consequently, large areas of land were ploughed for agricultural use. Agriculture, which is more labour intensive and needs more water for irrigation, was replaced by game farming, which is less labour intensive and requires less water This world heritage site has drawn global interest and ecotourism has attracted visitors to the Vaal River area. The riparian dwellers, however, remain victims of up-stream industrial and sewage pollution; in future, they are likely to fall prey to acid mine water pollution, with disastrous consequences.
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