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Cradle of humankind

© SA Tourism© SA TourismThe latest findings support the theory that it was in Africa that humans evolved – where we first stood up on our own two rather peculiar shaped feet and walked across the savannah. Here that we started to distinguish between our different grunts and snorts, and form them into words, and learned to utilise our marvellous thumbs to take control of our world – and to harness the awesome power of fire that came cracking down from the summer sky. Now, to be honest, it’s highly unlikely that the Gauteng Highveld was, in fact, the actual place that all this took place. Early hominids ranged all over southern Africa, probably all over Africa, but it was here that the evidence was most efficiently preserved, so it is here we go to visit the graves of our ancestors.

It was at Sterkfontein, in 1947, that Robert Broom discovered the skull which was to shake the foundations of our beliefs about who we are and where we came from. Mrs Ples as she (although she is now accepted to be a he) was called, is the archetypical symbol of palaeontological study in South Africa and the area where she was found is now a world heritage site dubbed “The Cradle of Humankind”. The Cradle is about an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and even less from Pretoria, so it is easily visited as a day trip from the city, but it has some lovely guest houses, restaurants and other attractions and is worth at least an overnight stay. Tours of the sites and an interpretive centre give meaning to the otherwise rather bewildering fossilised remains.

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