The Cradle of Humankind
One of Gauteng’s most famous tourist attractions is the Cradle of Humankind in the Gauteng Magalies area about 100km north of Johannesburg and near Krugersdorp. The 47000ha World Heritage Site was named the Cradle of Humankind thanks to nearly 70 years worth of thousands of fossil and other archeological finds that have defined the way we understand the history of our own origins. Even better than what has already been found is the possibility of what may yet be found – the Cradle of Humankind is still giving up ghosts of an impossibly distance past, with active excavation sites.
The Cradle of Humankind was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, but the first major discovery – the one that introduced the world to the oldest known predecessor of modern humans, Africanus Australopithecus, was that of a 2.1 million year old female skull in 1947. ‘Mrs Ples’ as she became known, remained the key find until the much more recent discovery of the almost complete skeleton of an Australopithecus child. Over a million years older than Mrs Ples, ‘Little Foot’ astounded the archeological world, and the digging continues…
Both Mrs Ples and Little Foot were discovered at The Sterkfontein Caves, making the Caves the central archeological feature of the Cradle of Humankind, even though fossils, hominid remains and tools have been found in many excavation sites over the entire 47000ha area.
Tours and attractions within the Cradle of Humankind include tours of the Sterkfontein Caves and the active excavation site there, and human history exhibitions at the Caves and also at The Maropeng Visitor Centre (also called the Maropeng Museum). The latter site also includes a tour of the laboratories where scientists are actively examining the continuous supply of archeological finds, and many other exhibitions and features to do with astronomy, the origins of life on earth, the birth of the planet and our relationship with planet Earth in the past, present and future.
Other attractions within the Heritage reserve include a lion and rhino game reserve, beautiful scenery, guesthouses, hotels and restaurants, hiking, hot-air ballooning and other outdoor activities. The Cradle of Humankind is peaceful, unspoiled…and ancient.
For more information on The Cradle of Humankind, Maropeng and The Sterkfontein Caves.
Getting there: Take the N14/R563 north out of Johannesburg, past Roodepoort and Krugersdorp to Maropeng. Turn left on to the R400 at the sign for the Maropeng Museum.
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