The Sterkfontein Caves are home to some of the most significant scientific discoveries of our time. Fossils of plants, animals and ancient humans have been found here, dating back millions of years. The limestone caves hold some of the deepest secrets of our race, allowing us to unravel the riddles of our evolution into modern man.
One hour outside Johannesburg, the Sterkfontein Caves stand as a testament to science and the evolutionary process. Part museum, part natural wonder, part working laboratory, the caves showcase the developments of the human race, displaying everything from 7 million year old fossils right up to human development today. It’s an exploration of humanity no one should miss.
Excavations of the site began around 1890, but it wasn’t until around 1940 that important relics began to be uncovered. The World Heritage Site has a long list of discoveries to lay claim to - these caves are world-famous for their mammal, plant and hominid discoveries. The 2.1 million year old skull dubbed ‘Mrs Ples’ and the near-complete three million year old skeleton ‘Little Foot’ are amongst the most impressive on display. Both found at the Sterkfontein Caves, they reveal a lot about our history as a race and the evolutionary process that saw us develop into the species we are today.
The complex houses a fascinating museum documenting evolutionary development as well as the process involved with excavating the remains. Stone tools are on display, providing a fascinating insight into the lives and workings of ancient people – one of the most interesting is burnt bones demonstrating the mastery of fire more than one million years ago. Guided tours take visitors into the caves themselves, some 60 metres below the ground – comfortable shoes are a must as the ground is quite uneven and there are a lot of stairs to tackle. Inside the caves, visitors can learn about the geological structure of the area and why it was so ideal to preserve ancient human life, view areas where relics were discovered and possibly even see the watch scientists examining fossils in a live laboratory. There’s plenty of things to learn at South Africa’s most celebrated fossil site – grab those boots and get exploring!