Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cradle of Humankind

After bidding Barbers safe travels, we had the opportunity to visit Sterkfontein Caves (meaning strong spring) near Johannesburg, S.A.  Sterkfontien Caves were discovered in the late 1890s during the time of the South African gold rush.  The caves have yielded a rich trove of fossil remains of both plant and animals.  Fossils discovered there have dated back to more than 4 million years.  The first adult australopithecine fossil was discovered in 1936. 

Dr. Brown's 1947 discovery

In 1947 an almost complete skull of an adult female Australopitecus Africanus was found there.  It was estimated to be 2.1 million years old. The skull was given he name “Ms. Ples” a shorten version of Pleasianthropus transvaalensis. (‘near man’ of Transvaal). In 1997, “Little Foot”, the most complete Australopitecus skeletal remains were also recovered from the caves.

Continual excavation

It was incredible to climbing down into the caves and view previously excavated sites where some ancient fossils have been excavated.  To realize you were standing in a location where 2.1 million years ago an evolutionary relative had roamed was unbelievable. Strekfontien Caves have been recognized as the world’s richest hominid site having yielded over 500 hominid specimens thus far.  

Excavated fossil locations

Continued site excavation has been in place at Sterkfontien since 1966.

From the caves we traveled to Maropeng Visitor Center.  The Center is acclaimed for its interactive visually stunning exhibits.  The Center provides a boat ride through a 150-meter cave that takes you back to 3-billion years ago. On this ride we observed the elements being formed that kick started life on earth.  

Simulation of earth's development

The boat trip matched any Disney ride.  

1 comment:

  1. We are glad to see you made it home safely and envy you this visit. What an amazing way to finish your trip.