- Cradle of Humankind
The Cradle of Humankind, being a World Heritage Site, is an area of exceptional worldwide significance. The multifaceted caves that form the site contain immense, rich, well preserved fossils that has uncovered a species of animal that has been said to be closer to humans than any other species found to date. It is the world's richest early hominid site, and has produced approximately 40% of the world's human and animal fossils known to date. The site comprises 15 excavation that are classified as National Heritage sites in their own right, but only two are open to the public. The remainder are being worked by scientist from all over the world.
The Ditsong Museum of National History in Pretoria is custodian of the South African fossil heritage as well as the accompanying documentation.
The whole Cradle area covers 52 000ha, 45 minutes’ drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria and is situated in Gauteng but parts of it extend through North West province.
Places to visit
- Sterkfontein Caves - 45 minutes from Johannesburg
- Wonder Cave - 40 minutes from Johannesburg
- Maropeng - The Visitor Centre is 10 km from the Sterkfontein Caves
Famous fossil finds
- The Taung Child (1925 ) - Raymond Dart was appointed to the Witwatersrand Medical School and asked his students to be on the lookout for fossils when they went on holidays and he was pleasantly surprised with the results. He was sent a create of fossils from the Taung area and in it he discovered what could be the most significant hominid fossil find unearthed to date.
- Mrs Ples (1947) - This may be the most famous of all the Cradle of humankind finds as it caught the attention of the world media.
- Orpheus and Eurydice (1994) - In 1994, at the Drimolen site Andre Keyser discovered a large portion of the skull of a female Australopihecus robustus and the jaw of a male not far off. They were called Orpheus and Eurydice after a Greek God.
- Australopithecus dediba (2010) - In 2008, Professor Lee Berger used modern means like google earth to discover what is now known as the Malapa site. His son Mathew found a new hominin species and bone fossils that can be identified as 6 individuals. This work is ongoing and attracts scientists from all over the world.
(6 of the 15)
- Coopers Cave - This site can be called a living museum as the fossils are so numerous they can be seen from the surface. Fossils found here are mainly carnivores and fauna.
- Kromdraai Caves - Many hominid fossils have been found on this site as well as many animal specimens specifically sabre toothed cats.
- Malapa Fossil Site - One of the most prolific hominid fossil sites of the Cradle area which continues delivering many specimens.
- Plover’s Lake fossil site - This is in fact a cave that used to be a lake in ancient times. It is composed of broken and fragmented rock that has been impacted together capturing many fragments of fossils. It can be found 4 km from Sterkfontein and Kromdraai (sites that delivered the hominid fossils that are now so famous)
- Swartkrans - To date, more than 200 hominid specimens have been uncovered from this site.
- Wonder Cave - This cave contains magnificent drip stone formations like the ones at the Cango Caves and has been the site of many fossil finds of rodents, frogs, birds and lizards.
The first hominid fossil was found in 1924 at the what is now called the Cradle of Humankind, by Dr Raymond Dart in the Taung site in the North West Province. The world was quick to pick up on the find and the site is now a major player in the race to find the “missing link” and with it came the bolstering of the tourist industry. The whole area has flourished and there is no shortage of world class accommodation with an African flair that is so popular with the tourists.There have been recent presentations of new fossils but to date there is no concrete evidence that man has evolved from another species.
Cradle of HumankindP O Box 155
Tel: +27 11 085 2500
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