Swartkrans unveiled as a National Heritage Site

  • April 12, 2013

On 12 April 2013, Swartkrans, a fossil-rich site that lies in the Blaaubank River Valley of South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind, joined the ranks as one of the country’s National Heritage Sites.

Representatives from the South African Heritage Resources Agency and the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site Management Authority, along with leading palaeoanthropologist Dr Bob Brain, whose work at Swartkrans spanned over half a century, unveiled a plaque at Swartkrans that commemorates the location’s National Heritage Site status.

The plaque recognises the importance of the caves as one of the world’s most prominent palaeoanthropological sites.

“The site of Swartkrans is critically important in the overall understanding of our past. From the first evidence of controlled use of fire and the first evidence of the co-existence of two hominid species, Swartkrans has revealed a rich picture of our prehistoric past,” says Lindsay Marshall, Maropeng’s marketing and communications manager.

“The site plays an important part in the story told at both the Maropeng and Sterkfontein Exhibitions. We are also in a privileged position to offer exclusive walking tours to the site with palaeoanthropologist Dr Morris Sutton, who is currently excavating there,” she adds.

Swartkrans is the richest fossil sites for bone tools. Since 1948, when palaeontologist Dr Robert Broom and his assistant, John Robinson, first discovered Homo ergaster, the fossils discovered at Swartkrans have made an invaluable contribution to our understanding of human evolution.

Certain fossils excavated at the cave date to between 1.8-million and 1-million years old, including the largest sample of Paranthropus robustus ever discovered in Southern Africa, and remains of the early tool-maker of our own genus, Homo.

More than 200 hominin species have been discovered at Swartkrans.

Other discoveries include stone and bone tools used by early Homo, as well as evidence of the controlled use of fire.

These findings from the Swartkrans cave deposits have helped unlock our understanding of our early human ancestors and the environment they lived in.

Today the site remains a popular location for palaeontologists looking to uncover bone and stone fossils and is also visited by members of the public while on the Swartkrans Walking Tour.

Marshall says the Swartkrans Walking Tours have been well received. “The Swartkrans Walking Tours offer small groups of no more than 12 adults the rare opportunity to observe an active palaeontological dig at the site, which is usually closed to the public. Visitors are guided by scientist Dr Morris Sutton, who is currently excavating the site,” she says.

For more information on the tours or to book, call Maropeng on (014) 577 9000 or log onto www.maropeng.co.za and click on shop.

Issued for and on behalf of Maropeng by Cathy Findley PR on (011)  463 6372 or email nicolle@findleypr.co.za

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