South Africa is a favorite tourist destination because of the many different attractions it has to offer; but not too many people are aware that a lot of historians believe that the place where the earliest humans thrived can be found in South Africa. Aptly named the Cradle of Humankind, this UNESCO Heritage Site is situated 50km NW of Johannesburg. The place is also a mere hour’s drive from Gauteng Province, South Africa’s richest and most populous province
Historians concluded that the Cradle of Humankind is the place where humans first came about after discovering a significant collection of the oldest hominid fossils onsite. The first of the ape and human-like discoveries was fondly called Mrs. Ples, a fully grown Australophitecus. The remains were unearthed by Robert Broom in 1935. More similar finds were dug up in subsequent excavations.
Likewise, primitive stone tools were recovered. This further bolstered the belief that this is indeed the first human settlement, and cemented the Cradle of Humankind’s place in history. More than 850 ape-human fossils have been unearthed from various excavations in the area to-date.
Visiting the site, you will notice the strip of caves known as the Sterkfontein Caves that are made out of dolomitic limestone, a section of which is open for public viewing. This is among the most popular attractions of the UNESCO heritage site simply because it is where Mrs. Ples, estimated to be 2.6 million years old, was unearthed in the 1930s.
With at least 500 fossilized remains uncovered, the Sterkfontein Caves is considered as the single most significant archeological site in the history of humankind. Here, you will see awe-inspiring depictions of pre-historic life as recreated by John Gurche, a world-renowned artist whose other similar works are featured in the Smithsonian Institute and the American Museum of Natural History.
This alone is enough reason to make your long trip to the African continent worthwhile. Just imagine walking along the same caves where our first ancestors dwelled millions of years ago. It will probably be the most spine-tingling experience you will ever have.
Of course there are skeptics who would disagree and argue that hominids may have actually lived in different places the world over, and the big number of discoveries at the Cradle of Humankind is mainly due to the site’s ideal conditions for fossilizing humanoid remains. Be that as it may, there is no denying the fact that the place was inhabited by the oldest human ancestors ever found.
Other than the Cradle of Humankind, there are other activities to do and tourist attractions to see nearby. There are also good restaurants and a number of hotels, including a 4-star hotel where you can stay during your South African vacation.
The underground boat ride can provide an unforgettable experience as you will have a feel of how early man lived. For the more adventurous, the game reserves and balloon rides are a must-try. More relaxing activities include horseback riding, fly fishing, and getting pampered at the spa. Likewise, not to miss is a sampling of the famed South African wines and the native delicacies.