Sterkfontein caves – Johannesburg

In my last post I took you to the Lion Park, this time I will take you to the place which is not only a tourist place but also one can find the combination of history and scientific evidences of human civilization.

Sterkfontein caves are situated at the “Cradle of human kind – Maropeng” . “ Maropeng “ means “returning to place of origin” . Fossils discovered here are 03 million years old so it is considered to be the birth of Humanity.

The Sterkfontein caves are owned by the “University of the Witwatersrand” , whose scientists have been responsible for the main excavations of the world Heritage site. They are credited with many of the world famous discoveries. Much of what we know about our origins has been learnt from the fossils of our ancestral species & their relatives, known as “Hominids”

The Cradle of human kind was declared a world heritage site in 1999 because of the areas exceptional contribution to our understanding of the history of Humanity over 03 million years.

All together there are 15 major fossils site in Cradle of human kind of which Sterkfontein is most famous one.

Way to cave

The fossils of “Mrs Ples” & “ Little foot” were discovered at this site. Mrs Ples – A skull which is more than 2 million years old found in April , 1947 & Little foot – A skeleton which is in between 3-4 million years old.

Archaeological finds at the Cradle of human kind includes 1,7 million years old stone tools , the oldest recorded in southern Africa at Swartkeans near Sterkfountein , a collection of 270 burnt tells us that our ancestors could manage fire more than one million years ago.

Entrance of cave

The cave has many stalactites & stalagmites, formations in different sizes and shapes.

The term stalactites come from Greek word Stalaktos which means “dripping” , because these other-worldly formation are produced drips from the ceiling of the lime stones caves. water react with chemical elements in ground and rock and seeps slowly through the roof of the caves , depositing calcium carbonate , which hardens and builds up over time to form a “Stalactite”

Opening from roof of the cave

Sterkfontein caves now have improved access into the cave , new walkways offers visitors a bird eye view of the spot where these fossils were found.

On the gate way of cave there is exhibition center which could be visited while waiting for your turn to visit the cave or after coming back which is very informative which tells you about the fascinating Sterkfontein caves and their secrets about the past.
The Scientific exhibition center showcases cave formations and Geology, early life forms, mammals and hominid fossils , among other topics. It gives the information about the fossilization, palaeobotany and Landscapes.

It is advised to wear comfortable shoes to avoid any mishappeninging inside the cave as the path inside the cave is slippery due to the dripping of water from the roof of the cave.

People who are suffering from Asthma & heart disease should avoid going inside the cave because of oxygen problem.

For a large group it is advised to book their tickets in advance to ensure entry as National heritage site are required to practise sound visitor management to preserve this natural site. As per guidelines entry of numbers of visitors to cave is limited. Sterkfontein caves reserve the right to refuse entry if the daily visitor limit exceeds.

As this place is full of historical information, it is a perfect place for school tours.

Coming out of cave

Admission fees

Charges for adult R130
Charges for children R75

Timing

09.00 -17.00 (every day )
Last batch (16.00)

After coming back to visit the cave we went for a walk around the cave. The view around the cave was mesmerising but the notice board “ Beware of snakes” placed at every distance of some meters made us scared.We took a breath of relief when we reached the reception area near ticket counter. There is a small restaurant where we had our tea & thanks to our Guide and proceeded for the city tour.

Our Guide

Next post will be on Johannesburg City tour.

  • Thank you Mahesh for taking us to Sterkfontein (the name sounds German somehow). More info on fossils would have further helped. It is amazing to know that there were some kind of humans more than a millions years back. It is humbling infact and to find that we have so little of documented history with us.

    • Mahesh Semwal

      Thanks Nandan !

  • Thanks Maheshjee for such a wonderful piece of information

    I was thinking before that SCIENTIFICALLY human race just came before 50000 – 60000 years before in form of Homo-sapiens. But your post give evidence of presence of humans long back .
    Sometime ago I was just try to combine and compare what was written in Puranas about presence of humans and scientific methods to detect their past.
    Because in Puranas 432000 years is age of Kaliyuga and Dwapar Yuga is double than that and so on. So there must be definitely a relation between latest conventional scientific methods. I got a very clear idea. If they excavate in India they might some fossils more older than those for sure.

    • Mahesh Semwal

      Thanks Vishal for liking the post !

      You may be right that if scientist excavate in India they might find fossils older than sterkfontein caves.

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    • Mahesh Semwal

      Thanks Sandeep !

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    • Mahesh Semwal

      Thanks Manu !

  • D.L.Narayan

    Thanks for walking us through the Sterkfontein caves, Manish. It was very informative and it is obvious that you have put in a lot of effort in writing this post. As Jatdevta had earlier observed, we have many such caves in India like the Borra caves in A.P. and the Kutumsar caves in Chhattisgarh.

    However, claims of Sterkfontein being the cradle of humanity are not very accurate and seem more like marketing hype; the hominid species found there, the Homo Gautengensis, was more ape than human and had a brain similar to that of a chimpanzee. The significance of this discovery is that it was the first species to use stone tools as far back as nearly 3 million years ago.

    There is broad consensus in the scientific community that our direct ancestors, the homo sapiens emerged from Africa, most likely East Africa, some 200,000 years ago and then spread to other continents. Based on DNA analysis, it is said that anatomically, we have not changed since then.

    • Mahesh Semwal

      DL sab , small typographic error , I am Mahesh not Manish :-)

      I am glad to know that you liked the post.

      • D.L.Narayan

        Sorry, Semwal saheb, error is regretted

  • Surinder Sharma

    Very Informative post. Good description and photos. Modern Development is not older more that few hundred years. But Million years, some one just imagine how many time Science developed and then destroyed. Thanks a lot for share such wonderful journey.

    • Mahesh Semwal

      Thanks Surinder !

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