There are so many cool daytrips to do from Joburg. One of the most fascinating is a visit to the Cradle of Humankind, one of eight South African World Heritage Sites and the only one in Gauteng. The Cradle is a collection of sites that lie in a green valley, just an hour from Jozi and set amongst indigenous bush. Joburg’s earliest residents lived here over 3-million years ago.
The Cradle of Humankind
The Cradle is famous for being the world’s richest hominid site, home to around 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils, and stretches over 53 000 hectares. The area is also home to a diversity of birds, animals and plants.
Though I’ve been to the Cradle a few times before, I was recently invited as a host of Maropeng. We spent the afternoon visting the Sterkfontein Caves and stayed overnight at the lovely Maropeng boutique hotel. The next morning we got a tour of the Maropeng visitor centre.
We took a tour of Sterkfontein, the biggest and best-known of the caves, where over 500 hominid fossils and thousands of stone tools have been found. Our guide told us of the two major finds at Sterkfontein that, that changed modern paleontology:
· The fossilized skull of Australopithecus africanus, Mrs Ples, believed to be 2,5 million years old, was found by Dr Robert Broom in 1947.
· Little Foot, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton that could be just over 4 million years old, the first pieces(foot bones), of which were found by Ronald Clarke and Phillip Tobias in 1995.
We learnt that Austrolopithicus had an ape-like appearance with human characteristics like standing and moving on two legs, while retaining their climbing ability. This was advantageous in their struggle for survival, allowing them to live in both forest and on the open savannahs. Fascinating!
Maropeng Visitor Centre
Maropeng means ‘returning to the place of origin’ in Setswana. The Visitor Centre at Maropeng is a high-tech museum with interesting multimedia displays for kids and adults alike.
The tour starts with a symbolic boat ride that starts at the present time, going back in time through the most important stages of the Earth creation. The interactive exhibits tell the story of the Big Bang, the origins of earth, evolution, and what being human means. With it’s fun and educational exhibits, the visitor centre is great for families and school groups.
Stargazing at the Maropeng Hotel
As a Gauteng resident, I don’t have far to go to learn about our ancient heritage. There is so much to explore right on our doorstep. Discover more of the amazing #GeePeeShotLeft experiences in Gauteng on their dedicated website http://www.gauteng.net/shotleft.
Note that this post is sponsored by Gauteng Tourism. MzansiGirl maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.