Cradle of Humankind: fascinating tour of our origins


Descending to look at the underground dig
Descending to look at the underground dig Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Another great opportunity here in Jozi.  Yesterday, two friends and I visited Swartkrans, near Sterkfontein in the Cradle of  Humankind.   What a wonderful day!  One of South Africa’s 8 World Heritage sites, the Cradle is rich with fossil-bearing cave deposits spread over 13 different sites. Fossils from several of these sites give us information about  development of hominids over the last 3.5 million years. Swartkrans has yielded specimens of both Australopithacus (2.8 to 2 million years ago) and Homo Ergaster (2 to 1.5 million years ago). Swartkrans is also a site which shows one of the earliest indications that hominins controlled fire and  many stone and bone tools have been found here.  Morris Sutton of Wits Archeological Department who is working the site, took the tour of only 12 people.

Looking down on the site of Swartkrans
Looking down on the site of Swartkrans Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

He gave fascinating insights into a whole range of information: how the caves are made with the fossil rich breccia, the researchers in the field of paeleoanthropology and the significance of their various findings; the controversies and contested theories of the origins of homo sapiens; the dating methods; the research questions posed; and much more besides. After a fascinating 2 and half hours both on the edges of the dig and down in the underground sections, we were led back half-way down the hill to find a fabulous spread for lunch which had been set out al-fresco.

What a fitting end to a very special morning.  Two tours a year are run to Swartkrans but there are more run at the Sterkfontien site. Well worth a visit!


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