The Cradle of Humankind


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The birthplace of all humankind


Underneath the rolling grasslands and rocky outcrops typical of the Highveld, lies a subterranean network of limestone caves at The Cradle of Humankind, 50km northwest of Johannesburg. Like an ancient treasure buried underneath the ground, the fossilised remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and, hominids are scattered in these subterranean caverns, providing a rich fossil record for human evolutionary studies.

The most famous of all the fossil sites here, the Sterkfontein Caves, was where the 2.3-million-year-old Australopithecus skull, dubbed Mrs. Ples, was found. Tours go deep into the caves and allow visitors to observe the many discoveries made here. Tours of two other fossil-rich sites, Swartkrans and Kromdraai, can also be enjoyed. The official visitors centre, Maropeng, features fun, interactive displays that will help visitors gain an understanding of the area.

The 47,000ha of land that makes up the Cradle was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features 13 fossil-rich sites. So rich is the hominin fossil deposit that the discoveries here have lent credence to the ‘Out of Africa’ theory that states that all humans descended from a small group in Africa. The Cradle is in proximity to both Pretoria and Johannesburg.

 

Highlights

  • A subterranean network of limestone caves house the fossilised remains ancient forms of animals, plants and hominids
  • The Sterkfontein Caves were where the 2.3-million-year-old Australopithecus skull was found
  • Tours of the Sterkfontein Caves, Swartkrans, and Kromdraai fossil sites expose visitors to the major discoveries made here
  • Maropeng, the official visitors centre, features fun interactive displays
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site and features 13 fossil-rich sites
  • Is in proximity to Johannesburg and Pretoria

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