The Cradle of Humankind is home to the oldest hominid fossils ever found—the place where humankind originated. It is one of ten World Heritage Sites in South Africa.
The Cradle of Humankind has 13 excavation sites. These are recognized as national heritage sites, both internationally and by the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
There is a small museum, with several fossil examples of our earliest ancestors. There are also a collection of photographs and artifacts and hands-on science exhibits.
Apart from the museum, there are also a dozen dolomitic limestone caves. These have fossilized remains of ancient forms of hominids, but also of plants and animals.
The Cradle of Humankind is on a 180-square-mile site about an hour and a half out of Johannesburg.
The exhibition has several excavated fossils. It beautifully illustrates our human history and how the world was formed.
You can also take a 1 hour guided walk through the Sterkfontein Caves. Even if you are not into science, you may find the formations incredible.
The Cradle of Humankind is important because this site has produced:
- Man’s oldest stone tools (Oldowan) in Southern Africa;
- The only almost complete Australopithecus skeleton—it is named “Little Foot”.
- Several cave sites containing fossils of our ancestors and the animals that populated the region.
- The first adult Australopithecus, which was found in the Sterkfontein caves in 1936.
- A second kind of ape-man, found at Kromdraai in 1938.
- The first, (and so far the only) direct association between Homo ergaster (Stw 80) and early Acheulean tools.
- The longest sample of Australopithecus africanus fossils, as well as the longest sample of Paranthropus robustus fossils.
While it is open to all ages, some may argue that it is targeted towards educating children. Nonetheless, it is an interesting experience.
Since you’ve driven all that way, you might as well kick your shoes off and relax for a bit. Maropeng has a great boutique hotel and restaurant, which employs the locals. (It’s a vital part of the Maropeng economy).