Cradle of Humankind
The Sterkfontein Caves, which form part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, comprise one of the most important anthropological sites in the world, because the scientific discoveries made there have been ground-breaking in our search for the origins of humankind. It’s estimated that 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils have been found here, along with stone tools, extinct animal fossils and evidence of early man’s use of fire. Discovered by an Italian prospector in 1896, the Sterkfontein Cave complex is owned by the University of the Witwatersrand, whose scientists have been responsible for the main excavations.
Best known are the world-acclaimed discoveries of Mrs Ples and Little Foot, an almost complete ape-man skeleton dating back some 4.1 million years, hailed at the time of its discovery as ‘globally the most important fossil ever found’. Across the valley at the Maropeng Visitor Interpretation Centre you can see an in situ cast of Little Foot, as it is in the breccia.
Maropeng which means ‘return to your origins’, is an international award-winning exhibition centre that uses science to reveal what makes us human through interactive exhibits, installations and audio-visual presentations that explore intriguing facts about the human population, past, present and future. Its cutting-edge technology includes an underground boat ride, transporting visitors through ice-ages and black holes in 4 billion years of simulated earth-history.