Cradle of Humankind Travel Guide

Description

A mere hour's drive from Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind is a place of major significance. It was here we first became human. Here where we first stood upright on our own two, rather oddly shaped, feet, explored the uses to which we could put our usefully opposed thumbs, and experimented with more and more sophisticated grunts as we tried to make sense of our environment. Its also the place where 1.8 million years ago we first "domesticated" fire.
You can do a tour of the Sterkfontein Caves, where there is a small interpretive museum, but you'll get more out of a visit here if you take a dedicated tour with a knowledgeable guide who can tell you about the various discoveries.

OK – to be perfectly honest, it's unlikely that these hominids lived only in the Sterkfontein area – they probably ranged all over southern Africa but, in order for fossils to be preserved, they need to die under ideal conditions – ideal conditions for fossil formation, not ideal conditions for life, obviously.

And the Cradle of Humankind, with its heavy deposits of limestone, offered the perfect environment for the preservation of these ancient skeletons. Since 1947, when Robert Broom discovered the first hominid fossil, who came to be known as Mrs Ples, literally thousands of fossils have been found at Sterkfontein and the other sites that make up the Cradle of Humankind.

But, even if you're not particularly interested in visiting the place where our ancestors hung out, the Cradle of Humankind is a great place to visit and it is close to Pretoria and Johannesburg. There are enough small game farms, caves, restaurants, craft shops and guesthouses to keep you occupied for a couple of days. You could even go for a hot air balloon ride. The Cradle is also close to the town of Magaliesburg and the Magaliesberg Mountains.

World Heritage Sites – Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and Environs

The Cradle of Humankind was proclaimed one of South Africa's first World Heritage Sites in 1999.

Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and Environs Krugersdorp, Gauteng S25º55'45 E27º 47'20

Makapan Valley Mokopane (Potgietersrus), Limpopo, South Africa S24º9'31 E29º10'37

Taung Skull Fossil Site Taung, North West, South Africa S27º37'10 E24º37'59

The Taung Skull Fossil Site, part of the extension, is the place where in 1924 the celebrated Taung Skull - a specimen of the species Australopithecus africanus - was found. Makapan Valley, also in the site, features in its many archaeological caves traces of human occupation and evolution dating back some 3.3 million years. The area contains essential elements that define the origin and evolution of humankind. Fossils found there have enabled the identification of several specimens of early hominids, more particularly specimens of Paranthropus, dating back between 4.5 million and 2.5 million years as well as evidence of the domestication of fire 1.8 million to 1 million years ago. It is an extension to the site inscribed in 1999.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Selection Criteria

  • (iii). To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.
  • (vi). To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria).

Source: UNESCO

In and Around

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Accommodation near Cradle of Humankind

*Distances are shown as the crow flies and not necessarily the actual travelling distance.

from R1,100
1 night, 2 adults

La Montagne Guest Lodge

Sleeps 42 Broederstroom Lodge in Broederstroom

La Montagne Guest Lodge is a 4 Star guest lodge that can accommodate up to 38 guests. The lodge is ...

from R710
1 night, 2 adults

Wow Country House, Exclusive House of Friends

Sleeps 20 Magaliesburg Country House in Magaliesburg

The venue is perfect for that special get together, a birthday celebration when you don’t want to ma...

from R1,190
1 night, 2 adults

Celtis Lodge Country Retreat

Sleeps 18 Magaliesburg Bed and Breakfast in Magaliesburg

Celtis Lodge Country Retreat is a lovely 3-Star country retreat, set in 24-hectares of beautiful ope...

from R900
1 night, 2 adults

Bankenveld House Bed and Breakfast

Sleeps 8 Krugersdorp Bed and Breakfast in Krugersdorp

Welcome to Bankenveld House, situated amongst the rocky outcrops in Krugersdorp, where Tienie and Ka...

from R980
1 night, 2 adults

B'sorah Luxury Tented Camp

Sleeps 8 Broederstroom Self-catering in Broederstroom

B'sorah Luxury Tented Camp comprises of four luxury tents set under huge trees, on the edge of a str...

from R1,100
1 night, 2 adults

Monchique Guest House and Conference Centre

Sleeps 32 Muldersdrift Guest House in Muldersdrift

We pride ourselves on top class amenities and services delivered with a special personal touch. We a...

from R3,500
1 night, 2 adults

Forum Homini

Sleeps 28 Muldersdrift Hotel in Muldersdrift

Situated on a private game estate in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind, one of the world's most f...

from R1,600
1 night, 2 adults

Dream Lodge

Sleeps 9 Magaliesburg Lodge in Magaliesburg

Gecko, Chameleon and Agama cottages at Dream Lodge are redefining the romantic experience. Share a c...

from R800
1 night, 2 adults

Sparrowhawk Lodge

Sleeps 14 Broederstroom Lodge in Broederstroom

Sparrowhawk Lodge is set on a four hectares of unspoilt land at the foothills of the Magaliesburg M...

from R840
1 night, 2 adults

Swallows Inn Guest House

Sleeps 28 Magaliesburg Guest House in Magaliesburg

Situated in easy reach of the World Heritage Site, the Cradle of Mankind, this thatched guest house ...

Mountain Sanctuary Park - Magaliesberg