The world heritage property has provided an extraordinary wealth of fossils and other evidence tracing the evolution of humankind from our earliest hominid ancestors, over a period of 3.3 million years. The country is famous for its Table Mountain, Kruger National Park, Cape Town, among other interest things. Although no hominid remains have been discovered here a variety of other valuable fossils, such as the skeleton of a baboon (shown) have been uncovered here. Recently, one of the most exciting finds has been Antetonitrus, a 210-million-year-old sauropod. Taung:  The Taung skull fossil site is where the ‘Taung Child’, the type specimen of Australopithecus africanus was found in 1924. Spreading out. Offended by one-sided coverage of wars, disasters and disease, the founders of Africa.com created a website that provides a balanced view of Africa – current events, business, arts & culture, travel, fashion, sports, information, development, and more. © 2010-2021 Africa.com. 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An international team of scientists, including one from the University of Washington, has announced the discovery of additional remains of a new human species, Homo naledi, in a series of caves northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa. Two 'unique' new hominin fossils have been found in a previously uninvestigated chamber in the Sterkfontein Caves known as the 'cradle of life' just North West of Johannesburg in South Africa. A construction project in Grahamstown, South Africa has turned up a collection of fossils dating back 360 million years, some of which represent previously unknown species. Prehistoric Poo. Fossil sulfur-eating microbes from about 3.4 billion years ago have also been found there as well. The genus Homo, to which we all belong, is first recognised in the form of Homo habilis, a hominid with a notably larger brain than the preceding Australopithecus. About 300 million years ago Earth entered what’s known as the Permian period. Famous anthropology finds. All Rights Reserved. This fossil was clearly more ancient than earlier finds and anatomist Raymond Dart, who first analysed it, claimed it was a human ancestor. Some researchers recognise a third branch with Kenyanthropus platyops giving rise to Homo. Nevertheless, Homo probably evolved from something similar to Australopithecus africanus. Gondolin: Many fossils, including an enormous molar tooth of Paranthropus robustus. Location and Values:  The Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa (dubbed the 'Cradle of Humankind') lies 45 km west of Johannesburg, one of Africa’s great cities. Several marine fossils such as crinoids, brachiopods, and sponges can be found … Ocean crossings are needed to explain how lemurs and hippos got to Madagascar, or how monkeys and rodents crossed from Africa to South America," says Longrich. African World Heritage, Nairobi, Kenya, Fortified Towns of the Trans-Sahara Trading routes. Compared to several other countries, South Africa is a young country, having become a Republic only in 1961. It’s estimated that more than a third of all hominid fossils have been found here, with some dating back to 3.5 million years ago. Hundreds of Massospondylus fossils have been collected across southern Africa, ranging in size from baby to adult. The two most common hominid ancestors found in the area of South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind are Paranthropus robustus and Australopithecus africanus. Homo erectus probably gave rise to other evolutionary dead-ends in Europe and Asia including Homo heidelbergensis (which lived from 600,000 to 300,000 years ago) and its evolutionary successor Homo neanderhalensis (which lived from about 200,000 to 20,000 years ago). Homo. Just five years later, the first fossils of another new ancient relative, Homo naledi (formally described in 2015), were dramatically unearthed in South Africa by a Wits University team led by Wits University Professor Lee Berger, and including the Perot Museum’s Dr. Becca Peixotto, director and research scientist of the Center for the Exploration of the Human Journey. It includes a number of caves and dig sites at 13 separate locations within an undulating landscape of low hills along a dolomitic limestone ridge. Plovers Lake:  Abundant fauna including baboon, antelope and an extinct form of zebra. Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa. “These fossils are evidence of our common origins and the research and knowledge thereof must transcend institutional, national and even disciplinary boundaries so that they mark a path to a collective future defined by human solidarity. biostratigraphy. The Makapans Valley was declared part of the world heritage site in 2005 and is about 300 km from Sterkfontein, near Mokopane in Limpopo Province. Grand Canyon, US. Compared to Eurasia and North and South America, Africa isn't particularly well-known for its dinosaur fossils--but the dinosaurs that did live on this continent during the Mesozoic Era were among the fiercest on the planet. Scientists however say … Most paleoanthropologists believe that this human ancestor arose in East Africa, where several younger Homo erectus fossils—as well as the likely remains of older Homo species—have been found. It is rich in Triassic and Early Jurassic dinosaurs. The Taung Skull Fossil Site, part of the extension to the site inscribed in 1999, is the place where in 1924 the celebrated Taung Skull – a specimen of the species Australopithecus africanus – was found. Thus far, there is agreement that all hominids found outside Africa are members of which genus? 90 000 fossils have been found at Gondolin since 1979. Australopithecus has also been found at Makapans Valley in South Africa’s Limpopo Province, which is part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Researchers used a technique that measured the decay of radioactive elements formed in sediments when the original specimen would have been on the surface but which would then have declined as the fossil was buried. Africa, Europe, and Asia. Science should have no boundaries and our collective knowledge must be made available,” says Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University. Content is produced in collaboration between Africa.com’s editorial team and our partners — including non-governmental organizations, private sector stakeholders, agencies, and institutions. Researchers from James Cook University in Queensland have been analysing fossils of the hominid Homo naledi, found deep in the Dinaledi Cave in South Africa's Rising Star cave system in 2013. The oldest known Homo erectus and Paranthropus robustus fossils have been found in a hilltop cave and a new study details a critical period of hominin evolution showing that two million years ago “three different human-like species lived side-by-side in South Africa”. This is where our collective umbilical cord lies buried. Comments and Impressions:  This is by far the most accessible of Africa’s fossil hominid sites, close to the urban centres of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and a major international airport. The smaller group, the herbivores, were very primitive and the only similar fossils to theirs have been found in Russia. Many fossil discoveries have been made in the past century. “The fossils featured in ORIGINS have never been displayed outside South Africa – and probably never will be again. A connection is usually drawn from Australopithecus to Homo, though there is still some uncertainty of this link. Paranthropus (which means ‘parallel to human’) evolved specialised teeth jaws and jaw muscles to be able to grind hard foods such as roots, berries and seeds. Unlike many global publications, for nearly a decade we have been committed to showing a complete picture of Africa – not just a single story. The Guide is based on displays at the National Museum of Kenya (Nairobi) and includes a narrative on human evolution; photos of 19 key hominin fossils; artists impressions of four human ancestors; a map of hominin fossil locations; a diagrammatic representation of the human family tree; and 'interest boxes' on stone tools and methods of dating fossils. Early Homo spread out of Africa about 2-million years ago. The exhibition will also showcase the collaboration and dedication demonstrated by a diverse, multinational scientific team of women and men, led by Berger, a world-renowned paleoanthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-at-Large. Fondly called ‘The rainbow nation’ the second richest African state is home to approximately 56 million inhabitants. Fossils of our distant mammal-like ancestors, which lived more than 200-million years ago, have also been found in South Africa. Thanks for reading and for your interest in Africa. Slideshow of the Fossil Hominid Sites:  The photographs in this comprehensive slideshow (92 photos) cover five of the principal localities around the UNESCO world heritage site - starting with the superb 'Cradle of Humankind' visitor complex at Maropeng (which lies just outside the world heritage site), and covering the Sterkfontein Caves and Wonder Cave (within the originally designated site), and the 'outlying extension' areas covering the Taung Skull Fossil Site and the Makapan Valley. It is rich in Triassic and Early Jurassic dinosaurs. Slideshow Description (continued from above):  The 'Cradle of Humankind' visitor complex at Maropeng resembles a great earth mound, commanding stunning views over the surrounding countryside. The next four photos provide a glimpse of the Taung Skull Fossil Site (350 km away) and then the Makapan Valley (300 km in the opposite direction). Scientists have been collecting parallel evidence across the Pacific Ocean since the early 1900s. Fossil hunters in South Africa have kept themselves in the headlines for decades, most recently unveiling a human-like species branded Homo naledi. To download this free educational guide, click here. Gladysvale:  Rich fossil site with clear stratigraphy (levels). John Hawks, the University of Wisconsin. Leaving the Maropeng Visitor Centre, the next few photos give an overview of the rolling countryside landscapes in this dolomitic limestone area, before showing details of the Sterkfontein Caves (which are owned by the University of the Witwatersrand). Fossils of our distant mammal-like ancestors, which lived more than 200-million years ago, have also been found in South Africa. This is a list of dinosaurs whose remains have been recovered from Africa.Africa has a rich fossil record, but it is patchy and incomplete. The presence of Glossopteris was used as supporting evidence for the revolutionary theory of “continental drift” during the mid 20th century. Motsetse: Site with well-preserved fauna, including a sabre-toothed cat. Today the quarrying has ceased and the site is being excavated and explored more systematically for its scientific values. Discovery of the ‘Taung skull’ in South Africa, classified as Australopithecus africanus in 1925. Our team of in-house natural history and archeology experts are some of those who have studied these fossils. “As humans, we are innately compelled to explore and understand our origins, and this exhibition provides an extraordinary and historic opportunity to come face-to-face with two newly discovered species of our ancient human relatives,” said Dr. Linda Silver, Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer of the Perot Museum. Middle Stone Age deposits with artefacts have been excavated recently, Wonder cave:  No hominids but a diversity of other fauna including baboon. Found in the Ladybrand District of the Free State, the fossil dates from the very beginning of the dinosaur age and sheds light on the evolution of our planet as well as that of these great lizards. The smaller group, the herbivores, were very primitive and the only similar fossils to theirs have been found in Russia. Kromdraai:  The first specimen of Paranthropus robustus was discovered at this site in 1938, in an area dated to at least 1.95-million years ago. The region is called the Cradle of Humankind because some of the earliest ancestors of modern humans were born there. However, in spite of all the difficulties, South Africans have contributed immensely to the development of the world in the fields of literature, philosophy, science and fine arts. Announced during Nelson Mandela Day celebrations, Wits University confirmed that South Africa’s national treasures, Homo naledi and Australopithecus sediba, will be on public display in a ground-breaking exhibition in Dallas, Texas, over a five-month period beginning in October. The Perot Museum will present ORIGINS from Oct. 19, 2019 – March 22, 2020. This chapter also deals with the importance of fossils and is a good chance to highlight the significant role that Africa and particularly South Africa has played in documenting the history of life on Earth, and the important fossils which have been found in South Africa. But by about 1-million years ago, Paranthropus was extinct. In the late winter of 1976, the world famous fossil collector James Kitching was doing a survey near South Africa’s border with Lesotho. Australopithecus africanus – of which Mrs Ples and the Taung child are examples – lived between about 3-million and 2-million years ago. Many of the most famous hominin fossils have been found … Other fossils from South Africa reveal microbial communities that date to 2.9 billion years ago. “The fossils featured in ORIGINS have never been displayed outside South Africa – and probably never will be again. Some of the world's most complete dinosaur fossils have been found in the rocks of South Africa, including Heterodontosaurus. It is magnificently presented for public access and education, with state-of-the-art interpretation. South Africa is the largest nation in Southern Africa and the world’s 25th largest country by land mass. Part of the site was probably a leopard lair. Although this fossil might look like any other rock, it’s actually 65 million year old … Discovered in 2008 by then nine-year-old Matthew Berger, the Australopithecus sediba fossilswere some of the most complete hominin skeletons known in the fossil record at the time. The most famous of these is "Lucy," a 2.8 million-year ... Fossils belonging to the species Homo erectus have been found in Africa … Africa is the birthplace of humankind. All rights reserved. African dinosaurs from these time periods include Coelophysis, Dracovenator, Melanorosaurus, Massospondylus, Euskelosaurus, Heterodontosaurus, Abrictosaurus, and Lesothosaurus. About 90,000 fossil specimens have been discovered here since 1979. ORIGINS was developed in partnership with the National Geographic Society and made possible through the Perot Museum’s official alliance with Wits University. Types of Upper Paleolithic art ... Where have Miocene hominoid fossils been found? The site was added to the world heritage site in 2005 and is located about 350 km west-south-west of Sterkfontein in North West Province. Links to other places in the human origins category:  Awash Valley  I  Omo Valley  I  Ngorongoro, Other Links:     Official UNESCO Site Details  I  SA WH Photo Library  I  National Heritage Council (SA), © Copyright 2018. An international team of scientists, including one from the University of Washington, has announced the discovery of additional remains of a new human species, Homo naledi, in a series of caves northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa. Our partnership with the Perot Museum is built in this spirit, and we look forward to enhancing it in the coming years.”. The National Geographic Society partnership will help tell the story by providing photographs, maps, illustrations, graphics and videos of the historic discoveries. South Africa 2.) The South African National Roads Agency, who was overseeing the construction, made the announcement in June 2016 after the fossils had been carefully excavated from other rock which was being cut with explosives. Match each species of pre-australopithecine to the appropriate map showing where its fossil remains have been found. One branch forms the Paranthropus genus and the other begins with Australopithecus africanus. Sterkfontein Caves The immense Sterkfontein Cavesystem is one of the richest fossil sites in the world, and is credited with providing over a third of the early hominid fossils found across the globe, prior to 2010. Many scientists thought that Africa, India, Australia, South America, and Antarctica had once been connected into a large ancient continent known as Gondwana. Around 12 million years ago, a volcanic eruption killed over 200 animals – including rhinos, early horses, long-necked camels, and cranes – … Discovery of the ‘Taung skull’ in South Africa, classified as Australopithecus africanus in 1925. He was criticised very strongly by … By the mid-1960s, Lystrosaurus fossils had been found in Africa and India. Nodosaur fossil Known as a nodosaur, this 110 million-year-old, armored plant-eater is the best-preserved fossil of its kind ever found. The Perot Museum is honored to host the exclusive exhibition of these significant specimens and thrilled to have our scientists involved in their actual discovery.” It also has a range of flora and fauna fossils, as well as stone artefacts. Meanwhile Australopithecus africanus had human-like teeth and hands but also had some ape-like features including a small brain, flattened nose and forward-projecting jaws. The most important fossil find is the Taung skull – a specimen of Australopithecus africanus discovered in a limestone quarry in 1924. australopithecus robustus was most likely the longest surviving species of australopithecine in South Africa. This was a unique find since most fossils of early human ancestors are found in East or South Africa and Chad is in central Africa. Compared to dinosaur fossils, the Ashfall Fossil Bed is a baby, but it makes up for what it lacks in age by how incredible it is. 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