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TThe Taung Heritage Route is a fascinating journey of discovery. It comprises an area once occupied by early humans and features many sites that speak to the existence and evolution of our ancient ancestors. The Taung skull fossil site, a World Heritage Site, is a major attraction on the route.
The Taung Heritage Route marks a location of significant scientific importance, for it was here, in 1924, encased in limestone in the Buxton quarry, that the 2.5-million-year-old fossilised skull of a hominid child was revealed.
Professor Raymond Dart of the University of the Witwatersrand identified the skull as belonging to an early hominid, or ancient human ancestor, and named it Australopithecus africanus, or 'southern ape of Africa'.
The discovery of the Taung Skull was acknowledged as one of the most significant scientific events of the day. Dart’s scientific classification promoted lively debate among academics in the field because it was evidence that human ancestors had lived on the continent more than a million years earlier than previously believed, which gave credence to the theory that humankind originated in Africa.
Recent evidence has solved the mystery of the 3-year-old child's death. It was most likely killed by a large bird of prey, probably an eagle. Looking up from the valley at the site's location, you can almost imagine these predatory birds riding the overhead thermals.
The Taung Heritage Route encourages visitors to follow in the prehistoric footsteps of our hominid forefathers and gives a rare glimpse into our distant past and the region that early humans once called home.
Spanning more than 45km, the route takes in several natural wonders, such as a limestone waterfall and the Blue Pools, a collection of natural rock basins, streams and caves in a lush river valley.
The Taung skull discovery site is officially part of the UNESCO Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and a monument has been erected to mark the location. Nearby, an abandoned mine tunnel has been opened for exploration, allowing visitors to venture into the age-old limestone mountains.
Located in the Bophirima district of the North West province, the Taung Heritage Route is an initiative of South Africa's National Heritage Council.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
North West Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)18 381 7341
How to get here
The Taung Heritage Route is located in the west of the North West province. To get there by car, take the N14 from Johannesburg/Pretoria to Vryburg. From Durban, take the N3 to Johannesburg, then the N14 to Vryburg. From Cape Town, take the N1/ N12 to Kimberley, and then the R49 to Vryburg. You can also fly direct to the Mafikeng Airport. Please note, it's in an off-the-beaten track location.
Best time to visit
The Taung Heritage Route can be visited at any time of the year. Visit in September to enjoy the annual heritage celebration that involves completing the route along with local archaeological experts.
Things to do
Hiking, mountain biking and birdwatching at Boipelo Nature Reserve; the Mmabana Taung Cultural Centre; and heritage and cultural tours throughout the region.
Where to stay
You'll find Taung in a rural area on the N18 between Vryburg and Jan Kempdorp. In addition to local guest houses and B&Bs, you can opt for a traditional South African home stay with members of the Batswana tribe at the Buxton and Manthe villages.
What to pack
Walking shoes, water, hat and sunscreen.
- North West Parks & Tourism Board
- National Heritage Council of South Africa
- Cradle of Humankind