Johannesburg is a relatively young mining city, but thanks to an extraordinary quirk of geology, it finds itself next to the largest repository in the world of the fossilised bones of our ancestors – both Australopithecus and Homo. Tantalising fossil discoveries from 1924 onwards led scientists to rethink the origins of our species – was it Africa? In 1936 fossilised homonin bones were found at Sterkfontein Cave just 50km from Johannesburg. Since then new discoveries have led to the area being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Typically tours include Sterkfontein Caves (longest continuously active hominin dig in the world) and Maropeng visitor centre. Other popular options include visiting the Cradle Nature Reserve or the Rhino & Lion Park. A new private guided tour of Gladysvale Cave and the Malapa site is soon to be launched. These are working digs, enabling guests to see scientists at work at two of the worlds’ most important active sites.
The Rising Star Cave, on Bolts Farm is the site of the most recent discovery of a new species named Homo Naledi. Dr. Lee Berger unveiled this new species on the 10th of September 2015. It displays a remarkable combination of ancient (Ape-like) and derived (More human-like) characteristics. Found in the Dinaledi chamber, the fifteen individuals appear to be the first evidence of our ancestors burying their dead.