The Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind is one of the world’s richest hominid fossil sites and also the site of the longest continuous palaeoanthropological dig in the world, with excavations having begun here in 1935. Hour long guided tours of the caves take visitors on a journey deep under the earth to the place where the remains of some of our oldest ancestors have been discovered. This makes the caves one of the major tourist attractions in South Africa. Before entering the caves, visitors are guided through an exhibition which details the story of the evolution of humankind and sheds light on what life was like in this part of the world millions of years ago. The exhibition also introduces visitors to the famous fossils which have been discovered in these caves, most notably Mrs Ples, a 2.1-million-year-old Australopithecus skull and Little Foot, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton more than three million years old. The vital importance of these discoveries for our understanding of man’s evolution is also outlined in the exhibition.

After walking through the small exhibition, visitors then begin the tour of the caves. As the caves are deep and have some narrow pathways, visitors must wear comfortable shoes, and leave large handbags or luggage behind. People who suffer from claustrophobia, asthma or chest problems may find the visit too difficult. Highlights of the cave include the ‘bottomless’ lake and the small caverns where the most famous fossils were found. After exiting the caves you can follow the footpath around to the excavation site where scientists from the University of the Witwatersrand are continuing to work on finding more fossils.

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