One of my favorite excursions was to the Cradle of Humankind, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, roughly 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, in the Gauteng province of South Africa. It was a last minute addition to the itinerary that everyone in our group was interested in seeing. Thankfully the leaders of our research group were able to make it happen.
I will say — it was a bit of an adventure getting there and we past it a few times. My recommendation — make sure you have a GPS or a guide that has actually been there. It is a little difficult to find because it is in a spread out area where people can visit indigenous animals, restaurants, inns, shopping, etc. The caves are a little further away from the other area, but worth the trek.
In the past couple of years I have become fascinated with my heritage and genealogy. These interests were amplified by studying the origins of civilization and human lineage while working on an Africana studies minor in an undergraduate program. I have always been fascinated with archeology and fossils but as I get older, I seem to become more of a science geek and I am excited by Hominines and tracing the origins of DNA.
The visitor center called Maropeng at the Cradle of Humankind, means returning to the place of origin in Setswana. Scientists have discovered many hominids and animal fossils that date back more than 4-million years at this site. The most significant find in the caves were the fossils of “Mrs Ples”, a 2.1-million-year-old Australopithecus skull, and “Little Foot”, a partial Australopithecus skeleton more than 3-million years old. Archaeological finds include 2-million-year-old stone tools.
We started by walking through an area with fossils, dolomite, stalactite and other items unearthed from the area. Then we donned hard hats and made our way into the Sterkfontein Caves, which is where we spent most of our time. It was dark, damp and a little eerie at times as most caves are but very interesting. At times it was challenging especially for those who were claustrophobic — such as needing to crawl to make it to the next location. But we had a knowledgeable guide who told us about the caves and the surrounding area.
After we finished touring the caves, we walked around the surrounding area for a while and took photos of the gorgeous South African landscape.
For more photos visit my flickr site.