A few months ago, I visited Maropeng – which means “returning to the place of origin” in Setswana, one of the many regional languages spoken in South Africa. Maropeng houses the Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein Caves, located an hour away from Joburg. The Cradle is one of the eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa and is believed to be the place of origination of all humankind! Spread over 47000 hectares of shrubs and trees, this site consists of complex fossil-bearing caves that have provided records of the evolution of humankind over 4 million years. The site has contributed 40% of the human ancestor fossils found world over, including the 2.3 million-year old fossilised skull nicknamed ‘Mrs Ples‘ which was found in the Sterkfontein Caves in 1947.
The Caves are also an active site of the longest-running continuous palaeoanthropological dig in the world. In the early 19th & 20th centuries, lime stone mining in these caves led to the discovery of several fossils, piquing the interests of several scientists. Another famous fossil unearthed here is that of ‘Little Foot‘ – a complete hominid skeleton found in 1997.
The visitor centre houses a museum that takes us through the timelines & journey of human evolution and has interesting fossil displays. The caves are located 10 mins away and guided tours are conducted every hour.
I would recommend both these places to anyone vising Joburg. A great way to learn about our race.
Opening times: daily 9am-5pm
Tip: cheaper to buy the combined ticket. But its available for sale only till 1pm everyday.