12 February 2016

Cradle of Humankind – welcome home!

It’s Darwin Day, a commemoration of naturalist Charles Darwin’s birth and the ultimate celebration of intellectual bravery. Just over 200 years ago one of the most influential minds was born. His work dug deep into the origin of species, and if you visit the Cradle of Humankind, where over 1000 hominid fossils have been discovered so far, you’ll feel a connection to human ancestry like no place on earth can deliver. 

The Cradle of Humankind is one of eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa and the only one in Gauteng. It is largely agreed upon that this very area may be the place where humanity was born – where that first evolutionary step towards consciousness began. The 47 000-hectare site has unearthed the best evidence of the complex journey which our species has taken to make us what we are – a place of pilgrimage for all humankind.

Maropeng

Step into the Maropeng museum with interesting discoveries around every corner.

Step into the Maropeng museum with interesting discoveries around every corner.

See where it all started at Maropeng, the official welcome centre and museum for the Cradle of Humankind. The trip explains the formation of planet earth through a multi-sensory platform boat ride on an underground lake. This is followed by a self-guided tour through time in of the greatest natural history museums on the continent. Interactive displays illustrate the evolution of life from tiny single-organisms to current Homo sapiens (us) and our genetic and cultural adaption and dominance.

If all this wasn’t enough, once you’ve filled your brain, fill your stomach at the Tumulus restaurant, situated on the first floor of the Maropeng Visitor Centre. The food is delicious and the views are even more so. Book a table and get the perfect view of the Witwatersberg and Magaliesberg mountain ranges.

Sterkfontein Caves

The depths of the Sterkfontein Caves 

The depths of the Sterkfontein Caves 

One of the world’s major archaeological sites, Sterkfontein is an underground wonderland with an abundance of knowledge that helps unearth the history of our common ancestors. Take a guided tour through the dolomite passages and see spectacular rock formations of stalagmite and stalactite. While you trek through the murky underground, learn about the origin of humankind through famous discoveries made in those very cave systems like “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”.

Drimolen

A Homonid skull. 

A Homonid skull. 

Known as the third largest hominid site in the Cradle, Drimolen is usually closed to the public. Lucky for us all, private tours led by scientists can be organised through Palaeo Tours. The most complete female Paranthropus robustus was discovered in this copious nook. Since then a total of 79 hominid fossils have been discovered in the area.

It is these discoveries that led us to question our species’ history. Where do we come from? How did we get here? All marvelous questions, and with the help of the Cradle of Humankind, these questions are slowly, but surely, being answered.

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