A new species with human-like features called Homo Naledi was revealed in September 2015, a historic discovery for South Africa. Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind (North West province) offers local, national and international tourists an incredible opportunity to learn about our past and the Rising Star cave that has since revealed another clue to our great ancestry.
Expected to boost tourism to new heights, the discovery of this new fossil trended top on Twitter worldwide as people sat glued to social networks and their television screens, captivated by the scenes that unfolded before them. Homo naledi was unveiled as a brand new species unearthed from the largest deposit of fossils ever found on the African continent. Distinguishing us from other countries, findings like Homo Naledi will put us on the map.
Professor Lee Berger, research professor in the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits, and a team of researchers, cavers and explorers announced in November 2013 that they had discovered a significant fossil find in a cave known as Rising Star in the Cradle of Humankind, some 50 kilometeres northwest of Johannesburg. They launched the Rising Star Expedition and have since then discovered more than 1 550 numbered fossil elements, the discovery is the single largest fossil hominin find yet made on the continent of Africa. The fossils lay in a chamber about 90 metres from the cave entrance, accessible only through a chute so narrow that a special team of very slender individuals was needed to retrieve them.
Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom recently announced that government has allocated R22 million for the renovation of Maropeng, the Visitor’s Centre at the Cradle of Humankind, where the fossils were discovered. In addition to the Visitor’s Centre, Maropeng has a fully equipped conference centre, a 24-bedroom boutique hotel, several eateries and a bar, a Kiddies’ Cave, and an outdoor amphitheatre that can seat up to 5 000 people. There is also affordable accommodation for students and tour groups at Hominid House.
The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is one of eight South African World Heritage Sites. It is the world’s richest hominin site, home to around 40 percent of the world’s human ancestor fossils. The 53 000-hectare area is also home to a diversity of birds, animals and plants, some of which are rare or endangered.
For more information, visit www.maropeng.com
Compiled by: Melissa Jane Cook
IMAGES COURTESY OF WITS UNIVERSITY