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Overview
IIn close proximity to Maropeng are the world-renowned Sterkfontein Caves. It is within these caves that scientists have discovered literally thousands of hominid and animal fossils, dating back more than 4-million years. The most important and revered of these finds include “Mrs Ples”, the skull of an Australopithecus africanus estimated to be about 2.1-million years old, and “Little Foot”, an almost complete skeleton of an Australopithecus that is more than 3-million years old. “These fossils are immensely important as they have allowed scientists to understand how and in what circumstances modern humans have evolved, ultimately changing the way we view humanity and the history of human development. The facilities at Sterkfontein include a restaurant, conferencing facilities and a scientific exhibition showcasing a reconstruction of a mined versus a pristine cave, cave formations and geology, early-life forms, mammals and hominid fossils, specific finds such as “Mrs Ples”, the “Taung Child” and “Little Foot”, as well as information about the processes of cave formation, fossilisation, and ancient species which inhabited the Cradle such as sabre-toothed cats and giant hunting hyenas. The caves are open daily from 09:00 to 17:00 and the last guided tour departs at 16:00. Bookings are co-ordinated through Maropeng. All guides at Maropeng and Sterkfontein have received accreditation with the Gauteng Tourism Authority to ensure that visitors appreciate and understand the significance of the Cradle of Humankind. The tours at the Sterkfontein Caves, which start above ground and then take visitors deep into the caves, run every half hour, seven days a week. The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (COHWHS) was listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1999.This site of global significance located about 50 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg, occupies 53 000 hectares of land. Its complex of fossil-bearing caves contains a superbly preserved record of the various stages in the evolution of humankind within the past 3.5 million years which have yielded some of the most iconic fossils of extinct ancient human ancestors and relatives, and associated fauna. These include “Mrs Ples”, “Little Foot”, Australopithecus sediba, and the latest ground-breaking discovery – Homo naledi. The COH WHS is an area of outstanding universal value. As Gauteng’s only World Heritage Site, and a premier tourism destination, the site is based on the conservation, exploration and interpretation of the story of humanity and its brand value encompasses ancient history, human beginnings, adventure, discovery and a whole lot more.

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