Johannesburg Day 2 - Cradle of HumankindFebruary 25 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C
I got up early at 6.30am for Kristen, Brian, Graham and my planned trip to the 'Cradle of Humankind' which is an area of many limestone caves near to Johannesburg where evidence of many fossilized early hominid bones have been found. We had a nice breakfast of cereal and toast in the communal kitchen before getting an Uber taxi to the Maropeng Visitor Centre where there was a large and impressive museum of information about the geological history of the Earth and the complex web of fossil finds in local caves indicating our many early hominid forebears, some of whom became our ancestors and some of whom went extinct. It was incredible to think of the expanses of time during which our early ancestors were living in this region along with many now extinct animals such as a long legged hyena that probably hunted more than scavenged like current hyenas do. The museum outlined the complex webs of hominid evolution with a more recent find of a previously unknown species of early homonid, Homo Naledi, where many skeletons and bones were found in the back corner of a cave where they could not have been washed in, indicating that these early hominids had burial rites where they placed bones of their dead in a particular place. It was previously thought that this was the preserve of later hominids like our own homo sapien ancestors. The museum also outlined the various theories as to how hominids departed their birthplace in Africa in several waves into Asia, Australia and Europe, and how modern humans may have followed this same path and displaced or absorbed earlier hominid migrators through interbreeding like the Neanderthals who went extinct relatively recently several thousand years ago. The museum was very interactive and would have been a fun way for older children to learn about hominid evolution as well. There is clearly a lot of speculation about this complex hominid evolution and ideas are changing with ongoing new and exciting fossil discoveries. This area of Africa is proving to be a fruitful place for this exploration of our ancient past. I reflected on how this journey had taken us back to the birthplace of all our most distant ancestors, right back to early mammals and monkeys. It was humbling to think about.
After the museum, we went to the Sterkfontein Caves for a guided tour of the caves where the fossilized bones of early Australopithecus hominids have been discovered in quite large number including The Taung Child, Mrs. Ples and Little Foot. Most of these unfortunate early hominids had fallen into the cave through the many sink holes and never managed to escape, were calcified and then fossilized over thoisands of years where they were then discovered during archeological digs. Some of the chambers of these caves were of an impressive size. As we left the caves we could pass a current excavation and look over the surrounding landscape and imagine these early ape faced hominids walking in small communities across the land many hundreds of thousands and even millions of years ago. The museum had earlier displayed some very good reconstructions of what these early small hominids would have looked like.
After our enjoyable visit to the Cradle of Humankind we got the same Uber taxi back to the Backpackers Connection hostel about an hour away. We ordered some lunch at the bar and had some cool drinks to combat the increasingly hot weather. Kristen was then due to leave for the airport at 4pm and we all said our goodbyes to her. I had enjoyed some interesting conversations with Kriaten during our trip and we also had a shared interest in ancient rock art and early hominid evolution which had led us to find sites with rock paintings and it was Kristen who had found and organised our trip to the Cradle of Humankind that day. I was also thinking of doing the same Oasis Overlamd trip through central Asia that Kristen is planning to do.
After Kristen's departure, we played pool doubles, and Jemma and Grant finally beat myself and Graham which they had previously been unable to do - they were both pleased to have broken our undefeated status. I then returned to the porch of my safari tent to write my blog as the evening cooled.
Brian, Graham, Jemma, Grant, Oftan, Chris and I, all had dinner of sausage and mash in the hostel dining room at 8pm. We chatted about our travels and the potential impact that the Corona virus will have for future travels. We all retired to our tents, rooms and dorms after the late dinner. My tent was very cool again as I went off to sleep.Read more