Cultural World Heritage Sites
Did you know?
News of the discovery of a sophisticated African trading empire at Mapungubwe exisiting centuries before the arrival of Europeans was supressed because it controverted the racist ideology of apartheid.
There are 5 cultural World Heritage Sites in South Africa: the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, the Cradle of Humankind, Robben Island, the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, and the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. The first 4 are inscribed on UNESCO's list as places of 'outstanding value to humanity'. The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is recognised for both its cultural and natural characteristics.
Geographically, the most separate of South Africa's cultural World Heritage Sites, are the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and Environs, and the Makapan Valley and Taung Skull Fossil Site. Collectively they make up the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, inscribed in 2005.
Fossil finds, mostly in caves at the various sites, have revealed groundbreaking information about our ancestor hominids, australopithicenes, and consequently the evolution of all humankind.
Robben Island World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1999, represents a pivotal episode in the apartheid history of South Africa.
Located 12km off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island is famous as the place where Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected president, was imprisoned for 18 years. Though the island's history is one of exile and punishment, today Robben Island is a universally regarded symbol of human rights and respect for cultural diversity.
Inscribed in 2003, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site, at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers, conserves the ruins of the largest Iron Age kingdom that ever existed on the African subcontinent.
Discovered in 1932, the highly sophisticated society traded gold and ivory with China and India. According to the UNESCO listing, Mapungubwe 'contains evidence for an important interchange of human values that led to far-reaching cultural and social changes in southern Africa between AD 900 and 1300'.
Inscribed in 2007, the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape covers 160 000ha of mountainous desert in north-western South Africa. The listing ensures that the ancient pastoral and semi-nomadic way of life of the Nama inhabitants, and the rare succulent Karoo landscape in which they live, are preserved for future generations.
The Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is one of just 23 World Heritage Sites worldwide granted this status on the basis of both natural beauty and cultural significance. The 230 000ha protected area contains 500 known sites of San rock art.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
Robben Island Museum
Tel +27 (0)21 413 4220/1
Tel: +27 (0)14 577 9000
Kamberg Rock Art Centre
Tel: +27 (0)33 267 7255