The Cradle of Humankind
World Heritage Site
The Cradle of Humankind is one of 10 World Heritage Sites in South Africa, and the only one in Gauteng. It is widely recognised as the place from which all of humankind originated.
The 47 000-hectare site has unearthed the best evidence of the complex journey that our species has taken to make us what we are – and is therefore a place of pilgrimage for all humankind. The area is not only a place of ongoing scientific discovery into our origins, but also a place of contemplation – a place that allows us to reflect on who we are, where we come from and where we are going to.
The Gauteng Provincial Government is the designated management authority responsible for developing and protecting this extraordinary site for posterity. There are 13 excavated sites that have been identified within the Cradle of Humankind area. These have already been internationally recognised in the World Heritage Site listing, and have now also individually been declared as national heritage sites by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). The careful management of these unique sites is a clear priority if the Cradle area is to be preserved and used sustainably.
The world-renowned Sterkfontein Caves site is home to the oldest and most continuous palaeontological dig in the world. It is also the site of discovery of the famous pre-human skull affectionately known as “Mrs Ples”, and an almost complete hominid skeleton called “Little Foot”, dated at 2.3-million and 4.17-million years old respectively. No one knows what still lies hidden in the rocks of the Sterkfontein Caves and other sites. The World Heritage Site status the area enjoys ensures that what lies deep within its core will be protected forever, and explored responsibly.
An amount of R189-million was invested in roads and bulk infrastructure to develop the site and bring in private-sector investment to develop tourism in the area.
In October 2003, the Gauteng Provincial Government entered into a contract valued at R163-million with Maropeng a’Afrika Leisure (Pty) Ltd for the construction, design and operation of a world-class visitor exhibition centre and recreational facilities showcasing the site. This public-private partnership was a groundbreaking one, requiring Maropeng a’Afrika Leisure to pay an annual concession fee for the government to invest in community benefit projects and in scientific research.
The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site has since become a major international tourism destination, with about 387 tourism attractions, including 91 graded establishments.
There are 175 places to stay and 113 restaurants in and around the area to choose from.
In addition, the 70 conference venues and 44 wedding and event venues can accommodate groups ranging from 20 to 800 guests.
The attractions directly employ an estimated 7 000 permanent and 2 200 casual employees.
Over the years, Maropeng has received numerous awards from the tourism industry. Read more about Maropeng’s awards.
Maropeng is proud to be associated with the following institutions: