Two major factors – geology and climate - have played a role in shaping the area’s biological and mineral wealth, and this bounty has in turn, shaped the human history of the region. Despite the harshness of the environment, the unusual climate offers a lifeline for nomadic herders and their stock in a region where people have lived for more than 200 000 years. In fact the Richtersveld is home to one of the oldest surviving cultures in South Africa, that of the Nama.
Long before the formation of the continental landmasses as we know them now, the rocks of the Richtersveld were being formed. The geological history of the region stretches back 2 000 million years, almost half the afe of the Earth. The dramatic landscape resultin from aeons of geological upheaval makes the Richtersveld a fascinating Earth-science museum.
The original rocks were formed by volcanic activity and were worn down by subsequent erosion and the subjected to more volcanic activity. Over the next 1 000 million years, these basement rocks – known as the Orange River Group - were subjected to successive intrusion events. These included the Vioolsdrft Intrusive Suite, Richtersveld Igneous Suite and Gannakouriep Suite.
The last intrusion event resulted in dykes up to 100 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide, which can be seen from the air, stretching as dark lineaments from the Richtersveld into southern Namibia.