My learning about the trip to the Cradle of Humankind in Sterkfontein
On the 23 March 2006, I and my colloques went to the Cradle of Humankind. It is about 47 000 hectare valley located in Sterkfontein. Sterkfontein is located approximately 40 kilometres west of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is wide cave formed by solution of dolomite rock under the water table. The site covers 47 000 hectares of land and comprises a strip of a dozen dolomite limestone caves containing the fossilised remains of plants, animals and hominids
The public first realised the caves in 1896 when Martinagalia blasted there when searching for lime. Dr. Robert Broom visited Sterkfontein in 1936 after he heard about the baboons fossils dumped. He was the first scientist to find the first adult skull of 2, 6 to 3 millions years old ape – man, Australopithecus africanus.
We were led by Mr. Rufus Mokwena on our tour to the cave. He was clear in everything he explained. He explained to us about the history of Prof. Ron Clarke, Prof. Phillip and Mrs Ples.
On our way to the cave he was explaining the following to us: Black chats were discovered in Mpumalanga, South Africa rock with fossil bacteria 3, 500 millions years ago. The first fish to walk on four legs 300 millions years ago was called Coelacanth. The mammal like reptile from Karoo called Lystrosaurus was known 245 millions years ago and it was a vegetarian. The Thrinaxodon, ancestor of mammals ate all small animals and it was 2m long slender build. The South African dinosaurs called Massospondylus lived 200 millions years ago.
The foot of the Australopithecus from Sterkfontein was 3.3 millions years ago had human like features and it was found to be the direct common ancestor of Homo (H. habilis). Mrs Ples (Australopithecus Africanus) from Sterkfontein was known 2.6 millions years ago. He (Mr Mokwena) said that the starlight which is seen from the Andromeda nebula had taken 2.6 millions years to reach planet earth and it is 2.6 millions years light year away from our planet.
At the cave there is the elephant chamber or African map, named because the dolomite rock looked like an elephant or an African map. We managed to see the ground water and the water is clear. We also saw some of the fossilized rock and he told us that there is a complete skeleton but we are not allowed to see the skeleton.
At the museum we saw the hominids, the teeth, the skull, etc. There was also the techniques of dating used by the researchers are as follows:
They (Cradle of Humankind) used Palaeomagnetism method for dating deposits, Uranium Series dating was used to date infill and stalagmites, and Cosmogenic Isotope dating was used to obtain the date of about 4.1 millions years far the “Littlefoo” skeleton. Comparison method used to estimates the age of the hominids obtained by comparing them. Cutting edge of Science is a species age of different members of Sterkfontein difficult to determine, as methods of dating and knowledge of contextual evidence or constantly being refined and updated. And the Age of Sterkfontein deposits, there are six members of rock; containing fossils dating between 4 millions to 1.5 millions years ago that gives us an extraordinary timeline of fauna and flora development during the time of our hominid ancestor.