The Fascinating Story of The Cradle of Humankind

The Cradle of Humankind is one of the 8 World Heritage Sites in South Africa, and with good reason.  It is a 47 000 hectare destination rich in history told through the ancient fossils found here.

The Cradle of Humankind offers over 400 attractions, including art and craft shops, restaurants, wildlife facilities, lodges, historical sites as well as other fun activities for the whole family.

The strip of dolomitic limestone caves, which makes for The Cradle of Humankind, contains the fossils of ancient forms of plants, animals as well as hominids.

This fascinating World Heritage Site lies mainly in Gauteng, with a small extension into the North West Province.  The dolomite where the caves formed was once coral reefs about 2,3 billion years ago.  As the reefs died off, they were transformed into limestone, which was then transformed into dolomite.

Notable attractions of The Cradle of Humankind include:

Sterkfontein Caves

The world famous Sterkfontein Caves are located approximately 10km from Krugersdorp.  It lies within the Isaac Edwin Stegmann Reserve and were donated to the University of Witwatersrand by the Stegmann family.  The caves are rich in hominids and produced the first adult australopithecine and female adult Australopithecus, nicknamed “Mrs. Ples”.  A section of the caves is open to the public, and this is a must see for all visitors to The Cradle of Humankind.


Swartkrans is about 1,5km from the Sterkfontein Caves.  To date, Swartkrans produced more than 200 hominid specimens, numerous animal remains as well as stone and bone tools.  Swartkrans was the first site in Africa to produce Homo ergaster remains.  Hominid and animal specimens from Swartkrans can be seen at the Transvaal Museum.

Wonder Cave

The Wonder Cave is believed to be 2.2 million years old, and is the best example of a relatively young taluscone.  This helps us understand how the older caves were filled in.  The drip stone formations are a popular attraction, with hourly tours conducted on well lit pathways.


The Minnaars Site overlooks the Bloubankspruit, about 1,1km from the Kromdraai site.  No recent excavations have been done, but there is a possibility that hominid remains may be found.

Plover’s Lake

Plover’s Lake produced abundant faunal remains, including antelope, extinct zebra and a leopard lair.  The ancient roof disintegrated as a result of erosion.


Drimolen is the 3rd richest fossil hominid site; although it is one of the most recent fossil hominid sites to be discovered.


Kromdraai is famous for the first discovery of Paranthropus Robustus, which is a more robust line of hominid that existed about 1-2 million years ago in South Africa.

Bolt’s Farm

Fauna such as elephant, pig, antelope, rodents and saber-toothed cat were discovered at Bolt’s Farm, all indicating a range of different dates.  Some of the fossils are the oldest in The Cradle of Humankind.

Coopers B

This site produced a molar tooth of a hominid fossil, the 3rd in South Africa.  It also produced significant faunal remains, a part of the face of a Paranthropus Robustus and some teeth.


This site includes three underground caves.  It has sediments dating back from 3 million years to 250 years.  The site produced some hominid specimens, two ape-man teeth, a wolf skeleton, some plant remains and a skull of a giant hyena.


Only faunal samples have been found here, no hominids have been found thus far.


Gondolin lies within the North West Province, unlike the other sites which lies in the Gauteng Province.  Fossils from Gondolin dates back about 1,2 – 1,3 million years ago.

For accommodation options in the Gauteng and North West provinces, please visit our website.

Looking for accommodation while traveling?

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