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Near the town of Barberton, in Mpumalanga, some very ancient rocks contain the oldest known fossils in the world. Now don’t go looking for them. They’re microscopic blue-green algae that are not visible to the naked eye, but scientists believe they might be the earliest form of life on the planet. There are more visually interesting fossils, too, though. The Karoo area is well endowed with dinosaur fossils and, on the Western Cape’s West Coast, there are some amazingly well preserved fossils of now-extinct mammals such as short-necked giraffe and bears, the latter of which haven’t been seen in Africa for thousands of years. And, of course, South Africa is home to the oldest known hominid fossils on earth, at the Cradle of Humankind world heritage site.

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