The Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site just west of Johannesburg that represents one of the most significant palaeo-anthropological sites in the world. Over 850 hominid fossils have been found in the area making it the richest concentration of hominid fossils in the world. This find has given scientists the ability to understand how these hominids adapted and diversified, and has led them to believe that this area was home to some of the earliest humans – hence the name “The Cradle of Humankind”.

In 1947 Dr. Robert Broom found a well preserved fossil skull that became known as ‘Mrs Ples’ and was estimated at around 2.3 million years old. Then in 1997 another skeleton was found of a hominin skeleton estimated at around 3.5 million years old, which was named ‘Little Foot’.

Visitors can go on a tour of the Sterkfontein Caves where they will learn about the history of this famous archaeological area, and are guided through the various rock formations in the caves.

Also, make sure to visit the Maropeng Visitors Centre where the public are able to learn more about these interesting findings. The word ‘maropeng’ is a Setswana word meaning ‘returning to the place of our origins’, and the centre certainly does a great deal to explain the origins of humankind. The entrance to the centre is a 20 metre high grass-covered Tumulus – representing a giant burial mound.

Once inside the centre you’ll go on a journey chronicling the last four billion years since the formation of the world, starting with a boat ride along an underground lake. Once out of the boat, visitors can browse a number of different exhibits including some of the original fossils excavated from the Sterkfontein Caves. The kids can enjoy digging in the Kiddies Cave where they can unearth fossils and experience what it is like to be an archaeologist.

The Cradle of Humankind stretches over 47 000 hectares, with a number of attractions in the area including restaurants, art and craft outlets, lodges, wildlife facilities, places of historical interest and spaces for young and old just to have fun.

Sterkfontein Caves tickets: R140 for adults, R80 for children (4-14 years), R85 for pensioners/students. Maropeng tickets: R135 for adults, R75 for children (4-14 years), R85 for pensioners/students. Tickets for both the Caves and the Centre can be purchased for R215 for adults and R130 for children (4-14 years).

For more information on the Cradle of Humankind, go to http://www.cradleofhumankind.co.za.

Have you been to the Cradle of Humankind? What did you think? Let us know.

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