The Makapansgat Valley in the Limpopo Province of South Africa is teeming with life, as a variety of animals and birds enjoy the plentiful plant and insect life found in this fertile valley. The picturesque Makapansgat Valley, 15 kilometers from the town of Mokopane (Potgietersrus) is the site where, way back in February 1925, Professor Raymond Dart announced the discovery of the remains of the first “ape-man”. The numerous caves in the mountain-sides of the valley have yielded fossils believed to date back 3.3 million years, as well as Stone Age and Iron Age relics, thereby linking it to the history of South Africa’s renowned Cradle of Humankind.
As is often the case with notable archaeological discoveries, the fossil treasures of Makapansgat Valley were discovered quite by chance. During limestone mining operations in the valley in the 1920s, an abundance of human bones were literally blasted out of a cave. It was only in 1947 that Professor Dart, along with a team of researchers, gave the site their full attention, leading to a number of fascinating discoveries. So far thirty-five hominin species have been discovered, representing around a dozen individuals. The ‘Cave of Hearths’ close to the main excavation site has yielded the oldest known evidence of fire making by man.
Based on discoveries relating to fauna, researchers believe that 3 million years ago the Makapansgat Valley was, as they put it, a “rich tropical paradise of biodiversity”, but most likely inhabited by hunters and the hunted, so not particularly safe for those that fell into the latter category. Today the valley remains lush and beautiful, and is a great deal safer. Among the local inhabitants of the valley are a variety of primates, including troops of baboons, vervet monkeys and bush babies.
Malapansgat Cave is also the setting for historic events dating back to 1854, when Chief Mokopane and 2000 of his followers were besieged by the Boers in retaliation for the murder of 28 Boers earlier that year outside the town of Mokopane. (Potgietersrus)
Guided tours are available by prior arrangement.
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