by Simon Capstick-Dale

Swartkrans Walking Tours

Digging up the past

Swartkrans Walking Tours
Swartkrans Walking Tours

Swartkrans, one of the Cradle of Humankind’s richest fossil sites, is usually closed to the public. But on special tours, which started on 26 January 2013, small groups of up to 12 adults will have a rare opportunity to observe an active palaeontological dig and be guided around the site by scientist Morris Sutton, who is currently excavating there.

Swartkrans is the second-richest site for early stone tools and the richest site for bone tools, at the Cradle of Humankind, associated with early Pleistocene hominins. It was here at Swartkrans that Transvaal Museum (now known as the Ditsong Museum of Natural History) palaeontologist Dr Robert Broom and his assistant palaeontologist, John Robinson, first discovered Homo ergaster (previously named Telanthropus capensis), the first human ancestor thought to have made Acheulean stone tools – essentially, the earliest distinctive manufactured technology. Other discoveries include animal remains as well as evidence of the first controlled use of fire in Southern Africa, dating back 1-million years.

More than 200 hominid species have been discovered at the site to date, including Paranthropus robustus, an ancient cousin of humankind.  Several other Paranthropus fossils, of a species other than robustus, have also been discovered in Swartkrans.

The tour costs R350 per person and includes a light picnic lunch afterwards. The tour offers a wonderful day out for couples or individuals interested in learning more about hominid fossils, palaeoanthropology and human evolution in a beautiful, truly South African setting.

Please note the tour is strictly for adults only.

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