The new Australopithecus sediba fossils have gone on show at Maropeng and the Origins Centre. As a new hominid species never seen before, and the first near complete fossilised hominid remains to be discovered, these displays record many world firsts and unlock some of the secrets of mankind’s early existence.

Did you know?

Australopithecus means ‘southern ape' and sediba, ‘natural spring', in South Africa's seSotho language.

A new Australopithecus sediba fossil, believed to be that of a hominid female, has caused quite a stir in international scientific circles. For a start the almost 2-million year old partial skeleton is thought to possibly be that of the transitional species between Australopithecus africanus (such as the famous Mrs Ples) and either Homo habilis or Homo erectus, man's early ancestors.

Then there's the fossils themselves: the partial skeleton offers the first most complete rib, kneecap, ankle and arm ever found. Added to that, the female fossil was discovered shortly after another fossil was uncovered - that of a young boy, aged between 9 and 13. This Australopithecus sediba fossil, nicknamed Karabo, and the partial female skeleton were discovered side-by-side, the first time in history that two hominid fossils have been found together.

This placement has given rise to the theory that the two hominids may have been related - possibly even mother and son. There's no denying the excitement around this finding, an element heightened further by the fact that the original fossils are now on show, at the same time, for the first time ever.

Visitors have the opportunity to explore Australopithecus sediba's secrets along with local scientists as they attempt to unravel the story behind, and connection between, the two fossils. The palaeoanthropological team behind the discovery may even add new pieces to the exhibit during its public viewing.

While the female Australopithecus sediba fossil is on show at Maropeng, the young male Karabo is being displayed at the Origins Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, a 45-minute drive away.

To celebrate the 2010 FIFA World CupTM and the rich heritage of Africa, the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, together with Maropeng and the Origins Centre, has put together a special package that allows you to view the two original fossils as well as the Cradle's famous Sterkfontein Caves, the site of other significant hominid fossil discoveries.

This special package is only available during the 2010 FIFA World CupTM, from 11 June 2010 to 11 July 2010. You can visit Maropeng and the Origins Centre on different days, but as the Maropeng-Sterkfontein Caves ticket is a joint one, these sites must be visited on the same day.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Maropeng Visitor Centre and Sterkfontein Caves
Tel: +27 (0) 14 577 9000

The Origins Centre:
Tel: +27 (0) 11 717 4700

How to get here

Fly to Lanseria airport and then take the R28 to Krugersdorp, and then the R563 to Hekpoort – you’ll see the signs to Maropeng on the left. If you’re driving, from Cape Town take the N1 to Johannesburg and from Durban, the N3. In Johannesburg, take the N1 to Roodepoort, exiting at the 14th Avenue offramp. Stay on Hendrik Potgieter road (M47) until it meets a T-junction at the R563. Turn right and follow the signs to Maropeng.

Best time to visit

Maropeng Visitors Centre, The Origins Centre and the Sterkfontein Caves are year-round destinations.

Around the area

The Maropeng Visitors Centre, a guided tour of Sterkfontein Caves, a guided walking tour of the Swartkrans fossil sites, a visit to the quaint town of Magaliesburg, the Magalies Meander tourism route, the Rhino and Lion Park, game reserves in the area.

What will it cost

The Australopithecus sediba fossils/ Sterkfontein caves package costs R210 per adult and R100 per child, per ticket. This provides access to the 2 fossils at Maropeng and the Origins Centre, as well as the Sterkfontein Caves.

Where to stay

Accommodation is available on site at the luxury Maropeng Hotel, or at numerous lodges, guest houses and B&Bs in the Cradle of Humankind and nearby Magaliesburg.