Back to Our Beginnings

We traveled to Maropeng which means “returning to your place of origin”. The site is known as the ‘Cradle of Humankind’. The Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site named by UNESCO in 1999. It consists of 13 Paleontological sites in South Africa. The 2.3 million year old fossil “Australopithecus Africanus” also known as Mrs Ples was found in the Sterkfontein caves in 1947. The site has produced 40% of all hominid fossils. The most popular fossils found here was little foot and Mrs Ples. The limestone rock is the key to preserving the fossils. It is through the fossilization that we are able to discover the history of the human race. Little foot is thought to have fallen in a natural opening in the limestone caves and died upon the fall and its body preserved by the limestone.

The Maropeng exhibit started with a boat ride to display the ice age and volcano eruptions that created the great land of Pangea. Through plate tectonics and the shifting of land by earthquakes the land split into the seven continents that exist today. During the shifting of the continents, Africa stayed stable which is interesting because it is the origination point of all human species. We saw the four elements for human life: water, air, fire, and earth. Water for life, air we breathe, fire that warm us, and earth that sustains us. The museum used interactive models, audio messages and figurines to explain what happened in the past in the cradle of humankind. We saw the extinction of the Dodo bird and the lifelike models of the human-like species and how they developed over time. The exhibit showed that the modern day Homo Sapiens Sapiens have so many unique characteristics that makes us all human. We communicate with each other through symbols and language to create a sense of identity. We are one global species with an Africa heritage. The final section was the infamous Mrs Ples that is on a special exhibit for a short time. Her discovery by Robert Broom in 1947 was important to piecing together our history.

The Sterkfontein Caves was the second part of the day where we went into the limestone caves by crawling and squatting to see the site where Little foot and Mrs Ples were found. In the caves we saw amazing rocks with crystallized particles and the cool white limestone of many feet in the air. In the lowest point of the caves we were 60 meters deep with an scary lake with unknown depths. We heard a story of a man who died in the lake trying to discover its depths. There is currently active digging sites at the cave but it is clear that there is so much undiscovered artifacts because of the caves needing to stay intact because of tourism.

It makes you think about your ancestry and it hits you that this one site is the origination point of all humankind. Our ancestors originated in the cradle of humankind and migrated out of Africa into other areas of Pangea. From there our appearances changed due to different microclimates of the land. Through the years of adaptation, the development of humans became unequal. If we look at our DNA we see that we are all from the same race. We might come from different places but we all have the same beginning. The hominids show us the history for what there is no documentation of. This area is the place where we became truly human, where we learned to make tools, where we learned to stand upright and where we domesticated fire. We must appreciate the past and where we come from in order to appreciate how far we have come as a race. There should be no limitation of race if you are black, white, or purple. We are all of one race, the human race.

Is there a balance between destroying the site to find more fossils and preserving the land?

– Jessicka Mercer

Twitter summary: We returned to our home at the Cradle of Humankind. There should be no limitation of race if you are black, white, or purple. We are all of one race, the human race. #SASA14

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