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MMaropeng is the official visitors’ centre for the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site within easy distance of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Its name means “returning to the place of origin” in Setswana, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. At the Maropeng Visitor Centre you will journey back in time from the start of our universe, some 14 billion years ago, to the present and beyond.
Inside the tumulus building, you'll find fun, interactive displays that could keep you occupied for a morning or even a whole day, whilst serving up plenty of food for thought about our future in the 21st century and beyond.
The centre lies on the boundary of a 47 000-hectare area, which was recognised as a World Heritage Site in 1999. More than 1000 hominid fossils and several hominid species have been found in a network of limestone caves here, spanning a period of around three million years.
HHominids are a family that includes humans and their direct ancestors, and the Cradle of Humankind is the richest treasure trove of early hominid fossils on Earth.
There are more than a dozen major fossil sites in the Cradle of Humankind, and since not all these sites are open to the public, the Maropeng Centre was developed to provide visitors with an overview of the significance of the area as well as the story of human development.
WWhen you approach Maropeng, you will be confronted with a striking building that resembles an ancient burial mound, known as a tumulus, blending artfully with the grassland surroundings.
Once inside, your tour will start with a boat ride on an artificial lake (guaranteed to be a hit with the kids in particular) before you enter the exhibition area that leads you through highlights of our evolutionary journey.
Here the displays tackle questions, amongst others, on how our brains developed, where language came from when we first used fire and what the risks are for us as a species in the future.
Maropeng Visitors Centre
FFinally, you will emerge from the back of the building to a striking view over the rolling hills towards Magaliesberg, one of the best to be had in Gauteng.
Glance back and you will see the tumulus is now transformed into a futuristic building of glass and steel, a symbol of how far we’ve come as a species.
Visitor tip: Maropeng has a companion site, the world-famous Sterkfontein Caves, where famous fossil discoveries have been made, among them that of “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back about three million years. You can easily visit both the Sterkfontein Caves and Maropeng in a day, and the experiences complement one another. If you want to stay over in the area, there is also a boutique hotel at Maropeng.