Explore humanity’s roots in South Africa

Maropeng Visitor Centre. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site
Maropeng Visitor Centre. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

In the world of archaeology, one of the most exciting spots on the planet is the Cradle of Humankind. Less than an hour’s drive outside Johannesburg, South Africa, this 180-square-mile complex of limestone caves that is one of the most prolific sources of human fossils in the world. Archaeologists have found the remains of numerous hominins, early humans who are close relatives of modern humans, with some fossils dating back as far as 3.5 million years.

Sterkfontein Caves and Little Foot. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site
Sterkfontein Caves and Little Foot. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

The Cradle of Humankind was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. Its Sterkfontein Cave has produced more than a third of early hominid fossils found before 2010. Visitors can enjoy guided tours of Sterkfontein and view active excavations, with options for brief tours or more in-depth half- and full-day tours led by research scientists. The visitors center there also offers talks on evolution, fossil cast demonstrations, and exhibits about the species of humans found there.

Learn about Australopithecus sediba at Maropeng. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site
Learn about Australopithecus sediba at Maropeng. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

Nearby, the award-winning Maropeng Visitor Centre brings the story of humankind’s evolution to life. It features a gorgeous building designed to replicate an ancient grass-covered  burial mound. Visitors move through a sunken marketplace where hundreds of Stone Age tools were found during excavations, then take a multi-sensory boat ride on an underground lake, experiencing the elements coming together in the formation of our planet. After the boat ride, you’ll track the path of life from the single-celled organisms of 4-billion years ago to the variety of life in the 21st century.

Homo_naledi_skeletal_specimens
Homo naledi skeletal specimens. Photo protected by a Creative Commons license.

The Cradle of Humankind is not the only important dig site in this region. The neighboring Rising Star cave system made international headlines this summer when it was announced that a six-woman international team of scientists conducting research there had discovered a new species of human relative, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1201749616507766&id=155514161131322Homo naledi.

Enjoy a family day out at the Lion Park. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site
Enjoy a family day out at the Lion Park. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

If you tire of all the fossils, go above ground to find modern biological diversity on full display. Nature reserves here are home to cheetahs, elephants, white rhinos, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, impalas, waterbucks, jackals, vervet monkeys, hyenas, leopards and more.

Africa abounds with important fossil sites telling the story of early humanity, including amazing ones in Tanzania, Kenya and Namibia.

Are you ready to explore humanity’s roots? Contact Ujuzi to learn more about archaeological safaris in Africa.