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The Cradle of Humankind

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is a 47 000 hectare destination with a rich and fascinating history told to us by the ancient fossils that have been found here.

Ancient History, Human Beginnings, Adventure, Discovery

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is a 47 000 hectare destination with a rich and fascinating history told to us by the ancient fossils that have been found here.

The site contains a complex of limestone caves, including the Sterkfontein Caves, where the 2.3 million year old fossil Mrs Ples (Australopithecus Africanus) was found in 1947 by Dr Robert Broom and John T Robinson.

The name "Cradle of Humankind" bears witness to the fact that the site has produced a large number, as well as some of the oldest, hominid fossils ever found. The Sterkfontein Caves alone has produced more than a third of early hominid fossils ever found.

There are more than 3 dozen fossil bearing caves in the Cradle of Humankind area.

Cradle of Humankind Fossil Bearing Sites

The hominid remains found in the Cradle of Humankind are found in dolomite caves and are encased in a mixture of limestone and other sediments called breccia, and fossilized over time. Although hominids may have lived all over Africa, their remains are only at sites where conditions allowed for the formation and preservation of fossils.

Bolt's Farm

Bolt's Farm consists of a series of lime quarries, just south-west of the Sterkfontein Caves. Several fossils have been found, including elephant, pig, saber-toothed cat and rodents. Bolt's Farm has produced some of the oldest deposits in the Cradle of Humankind, and is dated to around 4.5 and 2.9 million years.

Coopers Cave

The site of Cooper's D has provided rich finds of ancient tools, and is seen by some as the second richest early stone tool site in the Cradle of Humankind. Cooper's Cave is dated to be between 1.5 and 1.4 million years old.


Located 1.6km west of the Wonder Cave, Drimolen is one of the most recent fossil hominid sites discovered. Drimolen is the 3rd richest hominid site, and at least 5 specimens of homo sapiens have been unearthed.


Gladysvale is the first cave that Robert Broom visited in his mid-1930's search for hominid bearing caves near Johannesburg. He visited Gladysvale after a butterfly collector from the Transvaal Museum reported a "human mandible" in the cave wall, which was not there anymore when Broom arrived. Gladysvale offered up thousands of fossils, including rare remains of hominids. Gladysvale is aged 2.4 and 2 million years old.


Gondolin, an old lime-works, is aged to around 1.5 and 2 million years, and has only been sampled a few times. Gondolin produced a tentatively assigned Homo tooth.

Haasgat Cave

Early lime mining activity removed a basal flowstone from the Haasgat Cave, which caused part of the roof to collapse. These collapsed blocks have yielded several animal fossils, but no hominids have been found yet. Haasgat indicated deposits that may be around 1.3 million years old.


Kromdraai, a fossil bearing breccia filled cave, was brought to the attention of Robert Broom by a local schoolboy named Gert Terrblanche, who discovered several hominin teeth. Many thousands of animal fossils have been found at the Kromdraai caves, as well as 29 hominin specimens. Kromdraai is dated to be between 2.0 and 1.6 million years old.

Malapa Fossil Site

Malapa has produced arguably one of the most complete fossils of early human ancestors, and by far the most complete remains of any hominin dated around 2 million years ago. Malapa Fossil Site is aged between 2.0 and 1.5 million years.

Minaars Cave

No recent excavations have been at Minaars Cave. Minaars Cave has produced several animal fossils, including a jackal skull. There is a possibility that Minaars Cave may produce hominid specimens, should future excavations be done.


Motsetsi has been explorer since 1999, and tens of thousands of fossils have been excavated. To date, no hominid fossils have been found at Motsetsi. Motsetsi is dated between 1 and 1.6 million years old.

Plovers Lake

Plovers Lake had two periods of excavation, one in the late 1980s and one in the early 1990s by scientists of the Transvaal Museum. Very interesting fossils have been found at Plovers Lake, including the fossil of a baboon that had survived a leopard or saber-toothed cat attack, as evidenced by a healed wound over the eye. Although no hominid fossils have been found at Plovers Lake, many animal and stone tool fossils have been uncovered. Plovers Lake is dated to around 1 million years.

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