2 People
Tour Guide

Little bit of History of Maropeng:

The Cradle of Humankind is a site of major significance to the fossil heritage of humankind. But how did it get to be so? How and why was this site discovered?

What technology and brain power lie behind the discoveries made there?

A relatively small piece of bushveld about 47,000ha in size, the Cradle of Humankind earned its prestigious title after a coincidence of seemingly unrelated factors exposed its treasure – a serendipitous intersection of geology, old-time mining and intellectual power.


It’s all about dolomite, found in substantial quantities in the sedimentary rock of the Cradle. Certainly, when it comes to the Cradle’s caves and their ancient relics, it’s a miracle mineral.

Without the presence of dolomite there would be no Cradle.

Dolomitic rock contains a large proportion of limestone that dissolves easily in water that is slightly acidic – as is the state of most groundwater. As the limestone dissolves, caverns of all sizes are formed in a process known as ”speleogenesis”.

Over the eons, external debris, a lot of which included the remains of mammals, entered the caves by accident or by force of nature.

This is where dolomite dons another hat, acting as keeper of the treasure that lies in the caves it helped to create. As the dolomite dissolves it leaves behind a deposit of calcium carbonate, which preserves the fossils in a concrete-like breccia.

Intellectual power and technology

A series of dazzling fossil discoveries at Sterkfontein Caves, the biggest of the Cradle’s caves, gave impetus to the argument for Africa as our place of origin. The most important fossil finds at this site are “Mrs Ples” in 1947 and “Little Foot” in 1995, by the Wise Men – Professor Robert Broom (“Mrs Ples”), and Professor Phillip Tobias and Professor Ron Clarke (“Little Foot”).

In 2008, Professor Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) brilliantly used the powerful tool, Google Earth, to identify new cave sites in the Cradle of Humankind. Berger noted clusters of alkaline (limestone)-loving trees such as the white stinkwood, Celtis africana, and the wild olive, Olea africana, and was able to identify 500 new, potential cave sites at the Cradle.

At Malapa Cave, the first of the new locations investigated, Berger’s son, Matthew, found another new species, Australopithecus sediba, possibly descended from Australopithecus africanus.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Your Designated Location in Gauteng
DEPARTURE TIME We arrive at least 30 Minutes before the tour.
RETURN TIME Approximately 6:30 PM.
WEAR Comfortable clothing, jacket and sunscreen.
Entrance Fees Bottled water
Top Chosen destinations Registered Guide
Gratuities and personal items

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

Take a jour­ney through time, start­ing with the for­ma­tion of the plan­et and mov­ing all the way through the evo­lu­tion­ary process­es that cul­mi­nat­ed in the world as we know it today. 


Underground boat ride.

The boat adventure starts at the beginning of time, and takes visitors through an interactive experience of the four classical elements – water, air, fire and earth


Original fossil display

See fossils, learn about how humankind was born, view stone tools that are up to one million years old, and much more. This self-guid­ed, inter­ac­tive tour allows you to take all the time you need to ponder humanity’s fascinating origin story


Guided tour through The Sterkfontein Caves

Sit­u­at­ed an hour’s dri­ve from Johan­nes­burg and Pre­to­ria, the Sterk­fontein Caves are world-famous for their fos­sil finds and are a pop­u­lar vis­i­tor destination.