Did you know?
An aloe garden of over 200 species and 4 000 specimens is on display outside the Arend Dieperink Museum.
Makapansgat, a series of dolomitic limestone caves, preserving one of the greatest paleontological records of human evolution in the world thanks to the remarkable quantity of ancient mammal remains and fossil evidence of an early human-like primate ancestor excavated here.
In the 1920s, limestone prospectors exposed thousands of fossils during their excavations at the caves in the Makapans Valley. Some of these found their way to anthropologist, Professor Raymond Dart.
Dart had hypothesised that humans had descended from apes, following his discovery of the controversial Taung skull in 1924.
Dart's claim of an extinct hominid closely related to humans was vindicated in 1947, when colleague Dr Robert Broom discovered Mrs Ples, the most complete skull of an Australopithecus africanus specimen ever found, at the Sterkfontein caves.
That same year, palaeontologist James Kitching unearthed more Australopithecus africanus fossils from the Cave of Hearths at Makapansgat.
From 1925 to 1947, Dart systematically investigated the fossils at Makapansgat. He identified and described several new Australopithecus africanus specimens from the lime-kilns at the site.
Visitors wishing to visit Makapansgat should first tour the associated exhibition in the Arend Dieperink Museum in nearby Mokopane, where archaeological and palaeontological material, as well as historical artefacts discovered at the caves are on display.
From there you can drive to Makapan Valley and take a guided tour of 3 caves, starting at the Limeworks where the hominid fossils were discovered.
Next, the Cave of Hearths reveals evidence of the earliest controlled use of fire in Africa, and traces human occupation in the area from the early Stone Age to the Iron Age.
Finally, in the Historic Cave, or Makapansgat, you learn of the tragic outcome of lingering hostilities between the Voortrekkers and local Ndebele tribes.
In 1854, Boer forces, retaliating after 2 chieftains massacred 28 Voortrekkers, besieged Chief Makapan (also called Mokopane) in the cave, along with 2 000 followers, for 30 days while they died of starvation.
Legends regarding Chief Makapan abound. Some say he escaped, lashed to the belly of a cow, others claim he fled under the cover of darkness, and that his spirit still wanders the valley of Makapan…
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Arend Dieperink Museum
97 Thabo Mbeki Drive
Phone: +27 (0) 15 491 9735
Makapan Valley Heritage Site
Mobile: +27 (0)78 483 1473
James Kitching Gallery Museum
Bernard Price Institute of Palaeontology, University of the Witwatersrand
Phone: +27 (0) 11 717 6682