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  • The Cradle of Humankind – Knowing Our Ancestors

    Mon, Mar 22, 2010

    South Africa

    Very few cities in this world find their thousands of years ago first human settlement from their inheritance. Three million years back, Johannesburg’s first settlers were in neighborhood.

    From Krugersdorp’s center at 12 kilometer, distance is a 47,000 hectares of valley famously known as the Cradle of Humankind amidst the scattered trees and shrub as well as characterless koppies. The entire process and evolution of humankind took place in these caves and around it, even learning fire. Around 40 per cent of earlier human settlements were discovered from here.

    The Cradle of Humankind Site encompasses a band of twelve dolomitic caves made of limestone. The caves have fossils of remnants of past types of plants and animals and more imperative, hominids.


    Even though it mainly is situated in Gauteng province, small part of it lies in North West province, plus most of the land is private land. What seem like dolomite is actually died grown coral reefs which had formed 2.3 billion years back.

    Out of twelve, seven caves have many hominid fossils. The caves altogether have large amount of fossils, more than 850 hominid fossils remnants, which makes the Cradle of Humankind site as one of the richest concentrations of hominid fossils. The scientists worship this place as this place s like a window to the past where human evolution and changes can be understood.

    It is said that human are originally from Africa. And through experiments on the human lineage, the scientist conclude that the split took place long time before, around 5-6 million years back. And these fossils in the caves show changes and diversification that these African apes undergone through.

    Sterkfontein Caves

    Inside the Isaac Edwin Stegmann Reserve, which is 10 kilometers away from Krugersdorp, is situated Sterkfontein Caves. As these caves were on the private land, owned by Stegmann family, the family donated it to the University of Witwatersrand. The caves are still under excavation as well as open for the public to view these fantastic hominid fossils.

    As from very beginning, the caves have been rewarding the archaeologists for their hard work. First adult australopithecine was found on this site in 1936. Later, adult female Australopithecus africanus’s skull was found in 1947. Formerly, it was named as Plesianthropus transvaalensis, which was then enthused ‘Mrs. Ples’ – as a nickname.

    Sterkfontein is now famous because of ‘Mrs. Ples’, which is predicted to be 2.8 million years old and also positions at the highest on the australopithecine discoveries list. Even the excavation on the site looks unending as every time there is something to unearth. The excavation started in 1966 and since then it still continues today.  Since then, more 500 hominid specimens are been found. The site also contains fauna, stone and wood that was collected, used and thrown by the hominid in ancient times.

    The specimens from the Broom can be seen at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria and the remains from the 1966 excavation are kept in the University of Witwatersrand.

    Swartkrans

    It is 1.5 kilometers away from the Sterkfontein Caves to the north-west. In 1948, Dr. Broom and Robinson were the first to carry out excavation on this site. And since then, more than 200 specimens have been discovered, which is an achievement is and features the, numerous animal remains, Paranthropus robustus as well as bone and stone tools were discovered. After Africa, Swartkrans is the second site where Homo ergaster remains are found. The remains of the Homo sapiens at the Swartkrans dates back to 1.8 million years.  The Transvaal Museum has faunal and hominid specimens.

    Minnaars

    Overlooking the BloubankspruIt on a steep hill, this is 1.1 kilometers from the Kromdraai store’s north-west. There is no excavation carried on this site. But still believed this site might have hominid fossils

    Plover’s Lake

    It is situated 2.5 kilometers as of the Kromdraai -Broederstroom road to the Sterkfontein caves in the northeast. Dr. Francis Thackeray carried out excavation in this region. The roof of the old caves is falling down because of the erosion. Still scientists were happy about it, you know why? Because of the erosion, it uncovered rich fossils in calcified deposits.  The site is rich in faunal remnants as well as fossils of extinct zebra, a leopard lair and extinct zebra were found here.

    Wonder Cave

    It is a huge chamber of cave of 46,000 meters that dates back to 2.2 million years. This is the oldest cave in the region and also draws how the other small caves were filled. Lovingly this cave is called Wonder Cave and has beautiful drip stone formations, similar to the Cango caves. Not the cave is dwelling place for bats. Each hour there is a tour conducted in lit pathways and where crawling is not necessary.

    Drimolen

    From the Wonder Cave, this site is at 1.6 kilometers away. Recently only, hominid specimen was discovered on this site. And around 75 Paranthropus robustus and five Homo sapiens specimen as well as considerable amount of faunal sample were also excavated from this site. This site is third most known for the rich fossils too.

    Kromdraai

    To the north of Sterkfontein caves, around 1.5 kilometers is situated Kromdraai.

    Paranthropus robustus was first discovered at this site in South Africa, which is 2-1 million years old. The Transvaal Museum has all recently discovered fossils on display as well as the Harvard University and the University of the Witwatersrand.

    Bolt’s Farm

    Here you will find many excavation sites in line and it is situated southwest, 2.5 kilometers, of Sterkfontein Caves. Fossils of pig, elephant, rodents, antelope, and saber-toothed cat were discovered on this site. Each fossils dates back from different year. The fossil of rodent is the oldest till now in the Cradle of Humankind, which is 4.5 million years old. And other dated between 3.4-2.9 million years old.

    Coopers B

    Just 1.25 kilometers distance from Sterkfontein Caves and large numbers of hominid fossils excavated from this site, thus making it the third South Africa’s most yielding site in fossils. It also has many specimens of face of a Paranthropus robustus as well as few teeth.

    Gladysvale

    Situated within the John Nash Nature Reserve, 14 kilometers to the northeast of Sterkfontein, conserves the most wide-ranging time series of the Cradle of Humankind. It has caves as well as underground caves. It has large amount of Breccia. The sediments found here range from 3 million to approximately 250 years ago. In the caves, the scientists no only found hominid fossils but also skull of a huge hyena, wolf’s skeleton and few plants fossils.

    Haasgat

    From the Hartbeeshoek-Broederstroom road, its just five kilometers away. The roof of the cave fell down because a basal flagstone was taken down during untimely lime mining. Thus, as a result good faunal sample were found, even though bone quantity was not high. Scientists have been unlucky in the discovering fossils of hominid; however, ancient monkeys’ deposits were found which belonged to 1.3 million years.

    These all sites are part of the Cradle of Humankind where you can know about our ancestors and the evolution process that took place many, many, many, years ago. It’s really amazing to know all about pre-historic birds, animals, plants and humankind.




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