The mound at the entrance…
Our articles are often about distant places. They take time, and money, to visit. Sometimes we don’t have the time, or there’s more month than money. With the current fuel price in play, it is more expensive to take long journeys. But there is a solution. When one pauses, and views your hometown as a tourist, there are many fabulous attractions virtually in your backyard.
A tale of evolution.
The Cradle of Humankind is a paleoanthropological smorgasbord located only 50 km northwest of Johannesburg. This area of rolling grassland, rocky outcrops and river courses (which were typical of this landscape before it was overtaken by “civilisation”), was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. It is considered to be home to the largest concentration of human ancestral remains anywhere in the world. The fossil evidence contained within this area proves conclusively that the African continent is the undisputed “Cradle of Humankind”.
A study in wood – unusual, artistic ways are used to depict facts.
Within this environment is the Maropeng Visitor Centre, which is an award-winning, world-class exhibition, ‘focusing on the development of humans and our ancestors over the past few million years’. In this facility, you take a journey through time. Beginning with the formation of the planet, through the evolutionary processes – and the culmination is the world as we know it today.
The tale of fire and ice…
You get to see the fossils, understand how humankind was born, see stone tools that are up to one million years old, and that’s just the beginning. There are wonderful depictions of how the world began and the stages of its development from the start of time. It is essentially a self-guided experience, with loads of interaction, and it allows you to take all the time you need… You can also take the guided tour, which is very interesting. Overall, allow yourself at least a couple of hours to ponder humanity’s fascinating origin story.
The building blocks of our survival.
Both Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves are situated close to active scientific dig sites, where researchers are painstakingly attempting to reconstruct humanity’s complex origin story. World-renowned experts in the field often visit these sites. Many major scientific discoveries have taken place here, including “Little Foot”, Homo naledi and Australopithecus sediba. The fossil record that lies in the network of limestone caves beneath the surface is truly the history of humankind.
Part of the Almost Human exhibition.
The “Almost Human” exhibition was the largest-ever public display of hominin fossils in the world. We were lucky enough to see it before it ended. The rare fossil collection has now been returned to Wits University for further scientific research. There was an incredible amount of security on this particular exhibition. What is great though, is that exhibits change regularly – so if you go more than once, you can always look forward to something new…
So many interesting and aesthetically pleasing ways to depict fossils.
The Maropeng Visitor Centre oozes facts, figures and statistics. A visit to this site really expands your mind, and gives you an understanding of the evolutionary process. It also portrays the stark reality of the future. If we do not harness and take care of our precious resources, our descendants will face a dystopian and thoroughly unpleasant future.
If you time your visit right, the Red Hot Pokers in the car park are spectacular!
The Sterkfontein Caves are usually the perfect accompaniment to this visit. However, at the time of writing (early February 2023) they are closed until further notice due to the heavy rainfalls.
On a good day, you can see forever!
Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team
Maropeng Open Monday – Sunday. 09h00 – 16h00 (final tour at 16h30)