Why you should celebrate your roots at the Cradle of Humankind
Millions of years ago, our ancestors roamed South Africa. Today, the place where their remains were discovered is a dedicated area to learning about how we developed. The Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site where indigenous flora covers dolomite caves formed over aeons. With the fossils that lie in them, we can piece together the story of evolution.
This journey begins at the Maropeng Visitor Centre. Interactive exhibitions showcase the development of the earth, from the planet’s formation billions of years ago to the present age. Fossils, stone tools, and exact replicas are on display alongside in-depth explanations of their history. Outside, the Long March to Freedom statues depict political heroes cast in bronze. For those who yearn to linger among these icons and the marvels of the past, there’s the Maropeng Boutique Hotel and Hominin House.
Within the Sterkfontein Caves, 10 kilometres away, the real adventure takes place. Although some tunnels can be a squeeze, walkways create a smooth journey into these caverns of scientific significance. In 1947, palaeontologists found the skull of an Australopithecus africanus, an ape-like hominid with human features, nicknamed Mrs Ples. Five decades later, researchers unearthed Little Foot, the near-complete skeleton advancing the understanding of our predecessors. Each of the 15 fossil sites in the Cradle of Humankind contains unique discoveries like these.
At the Lesedi Cultural Village nearby, flames heat up the kitchens of locals. They stir the flavours of the bush in a potjie. Kudu, warthog, and crocodile are on the menu. isiZulu, Ndebele, BaPedi, Basotho and isiXhosa residents have been sharing their culture and traditions with guests here since 1993. By nightfall, their stories come alive before the campfire.
This ancient world within a modern era is preserved 90 minutes from Johannesburg. From the savannah’s sweet breeze to the most fascinating fossils, a trip here is as illuminating as it is exciting. The Cradle of Humankind is home to our history. To know this place is to understand the journey of humanity.