Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa
Fossil Hominid Sites Of South Africa
Cultural South Africa Africa Gauteng, Limpopo And North-west Provinces

The Sterkfontein area contains an exceptionally large and scientifically significant group of sites which throw light on the earliest ancestors of humanity. They constitute a vast reserve of scientific data of universal scope and considerable potential, linked to the history of the most ancient periods of humanity. They bear exceptional testimony to some of the most important Australopithecine specimens dating back more than 3.5 million years;this throws unique light on the origins and then the evolution of humankind through the hominization process.

The landscape comprises a number of fossil-bearing cave deposits which are considered to be of outstanding universal value, because they encapsulate a superbly preserved record of the fauna, including an invaluable record of the stages in the emergence and evolution of humanity, over the past 3.5 million years. This makes it, without doubt, one of the world's most important sites for human evolutionary studies and researches. The site is located on a hill to the south of the Rietspruit river valley 45 km west of Johannesburg and 5 km north of the closest urban centre. The palaeontological and palaeoanthropological sites are a series of caves found in the dolomite band and its associated breccias which run through the entire area, creating a hilly terrain. The area is covered mainly by grass, with more dense vegetation along the rivers.

Some of the sites were discovered as a result of lime-mining activities, now discontinued. Sterkfontein is located on a hill to the south of the Rietspruit River valley. Of the nine included in the area, only three (Drimolen, Coopers B, Gondolin) have so far revealed hominid remains;Wonder Cave, Gladysvale, Bolt's Farm, Minnaar's Caves, Plover's Lake and Haasgat have only produced faunal remains but they possess a strong potential for revealing hominid remains. The fossils of the Sterkfontein valley caves depict South Africa's landscape and fauna 3.5 million years ago. Some of the most important specimens of australopithecines, collateral ancestors of modern man, have been discovered in this area. Sterkfontein geologically revealed the earliest record of hominids in southern Africa (close to 3.5 million years ago).

The Taung Skull Fossil Site consists of archaeological, palaeontological, historic and mining sites that are important in heritage terms. Makapan Valley consists of palaeontological, archaeological and historic sites. The components of the Taung Skull Fossil Site includes archaeological sites whose importance is widely recognized. It is primarily the palaeontological and palaeo-anthropological component which has made the Taung Skull Fossil Site so celebrated. This applies not only to the scientific world but also to the cultural world which is fascinated by the origin and history of humankind, in view of the fact, which is now indisputable, that Africa is the cradle of humankind. The components of Makapan Valley: this ensemble, of acknowledged richness, consists of palaeontological, archaeological and historic sites. The whole of this zone contains essential elements that define the origin and evolution of humankind. Thus, as a result of exploration and scientific analysis:

  • geological strata have revealed the first traces of hominids in southern Africa;
  • stone and bone tools, dating back 2-1.5million years, have been uncovered, particularly at the time of the discovery in 1936 of the first adult Australopithecus ;
  • fossil elements have enabled the identification of several specimens of early hominids, linked to the Homo genus, a collateral ancestor of modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens ), more particularly specimens of Paranthropus: Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus robustus .
  • evidence of the domestication of fire, another specific characteristic of human behaviour, has been detected, for the period extending from 1.8million to 1million years ago.