Cradle of Humankind

©David Fleminger
Arriving at Maropeng.
If you’ve not visited the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site before, near Krugersdorp/Mogale, you’re in for a real treat. This remarkable (and expansive) destination boasts a history reaching back millions of years, and the many ancient fossils found here attest to this.

Philip Tobias’s world-famous Sterkfontein Caves are partnered with the award-winning Visitor Interpretation Centre at Maropeng (a Setswana word meaning ‘returning to the place of our origins’), and together they work in perfect sync to open a window on the world of our hominid forebears.

Dozens of other attractions grace ‘The Cradle’ area, and once you’ve paid your respects to Mrs Ples and ‘Little Foot’ - the 2.1-million year Australopithecus skull and 3-million year skeleton – ask for a map and go hike, bike, quad and explore to your heart’s content.

© Jacques Marais

Basic Geology of the Cradle of Humankind

The rocks of the Cradle of Humankind region consist mainly of Dolomitic bedrock, which was formed on the bed of a shallow, warm-water sea that covered the Witwatersrand Basin about 3 billion years ago....more

Beginning of the Sterkfontein Caves

Before becoming a Palaeontological icon of international renown, the Sterkfontein Caves lay covered up and unknown, hidden beneath the surface of the farm Swartkrans in the Bloukrans river valley in the Cradle of Humankind....more

Cave Formation in the Cradle of Humankind

The entire Cradle of Humankind region is riddled with cracks and fault lines, and these facilitate the formation of underground caverns as the subterranean water table slowly dissolves the dolomite....more

Exploring Sterkfontein

The tour through the Sterkfontein caves is, of course, a highlight and should be undertaken by anyone who visits the facility. It is an easy walk, and it is guided so that you will get the most out of your experience underground....more

Natural History of the Cradle of Humankind

A broad disclaimer: the theory of evolution is not accepted by everyone. Despite more than 100 years of scientific investigation and storerooms full of fossils, there are many people who find it difficult to reconcile evolution...more

The People of the Sterkfontein Caves

Culturally, the earliest identifiable group on the planet is the Bushmen or San, who lived in most parts of Southern Africa from at least 30 000 years ago. Their !Kwi language and their prolific rock art dates back thousands of years...more

The Taung Child - Our Human Origins

The first major hominid fossil found in Africa was identified by Professor Raymond Dart, way back in 1924. Dart was an Australian who was working in South Africa as a professor of Anatomy at the University of Witwatersrand....more

The Wars in Sterkfontein

In the 1820’s in South Africa, the powerful Zulu king, Shaka, rose to power along the east coast of South Africa. The entire region was in a state of upheaval and conflict....more

UNESCO and The Cradle of Humankind

The Cradle of Humankind (or COH, as I familiarly call it) was first inducted onto the World Heritage List as a site of cultural significance in 1999, or site number 915 to you....more