Cradle of Humankind

Cradle of Humankind, extensive archaeological site, c.180 sq mi (470 sq km), encompassing dolomitic limestone caves containing numerous hominin fossils, Gauteng and North West prov., South Africa, c.30 mi (50 km) NW of Johannesburg. The fossil sites contain remains dating from about two to more than three million years ago, including examples of Australopithecus africanus (“Mrs. Ples”), A. sediba (a woman and a young boy), A. prometheus (“Little Foot”), and Homo naledi (the Taung child). The Sterkfontein caves are the best known, but Rising Star cave also has yielded many discoveries. Study of the area began in the 1920s and 30s with the work of Raymond Dart of the Univ. of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and Robert Broom of the Transvaal Museum, Pretoria. The Maropeng visitor center, in the shape of an ancient burial mound, traces the development of modern humans and their ancestors over the last few million years.

See B. Hilton-Barber and L. R. Berger, Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind (2003); T. Partridge, Caves of the Ape-Men (2010).

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