Sterkfontein Caves Maropeng : Cradle of Humankind

Sterkfontein Caves Maropeng known as the Cradle of Humankind is the world’s richest hominid fossil site as thousands of discoveries have been made there since excavation began in 1935. It is also the site of the longest continuous palaeoanthropological dig in the world. A visit to this World Heritage Site will take visitors on an exploration deep into these fascinating caves. Located only an hour from Johannesburg and Pretoria, it’s the perfect way to spend a day out of the city with the family.

Before entering the caves, visitors are guided through a world-class scientific exhibition centre where they can discover the origins of humankind.
Showcased are different cave formations and geology, early life forms, mammals and hominid fossils like “Mrs Ples”, the “Taung Child” and “Little Foot”. Visitors can also learn about palaeobotany and landscapes.

The University of Witwatersrand (Wits) owns Sterkfontein Caves and scientists from Wits have been excavating at Sterkfontein for many years. They are responsible for the major discoveries made there, which have shed light on the mystery of who lived on Earth before modern humans.

These enlightening discoveries include “Mrs Ples”, a 2.1-million-year-old Australopithecus skull and “Little Foot”, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton which is more than 3-million years old.
To this day, “Little Foot’ is still partially buried in breccia and is being patiently exposed by Professor Ron Clarke, a palaeoanthropologist from Wits.

Discoveries made in the caves date back to the birth of humanity, more than 4-million years ago. Visitors can also learn about how hominids survived on Earth – this has been explained due to the discovery of 2-million year old stone tools. After a tour through the caves, visitors to Sterkfontein can stroll along the wooden walkway which looks out onto views of the scenic Cradle of Humankind, as well as look down onto the excavation site where Wits scientists are still working.

As the caves are deep and have some narrow pathways, visitors must wear comfortable shoes and leave large handbags or luggage behind. People who suffer from claustrophobia, asthma or chest problems should also perhaps miss the cave tour as there are many stairs.

The tours run every half hour, seven days a week. Unfortunately the caves are not wheelchair-accessible. There is also a lovely restaurant where visitors can rest after their cave tour and enjoy a toasted sandwich or hamburger or one of the other light snacks on the menu.

Adults: R120
Children (four to14 years): R70
Children under 4: Free
Pensioners/Students: R80 (on production of a valid pensioner/student card)

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