A basin rich in magnificence and biodiversity, the Makapansgat Valley displays some of the most astounding beauty in Limpopo. Not only is it of interest to palaeontologists - numerous caves in the Makapansgat valley hold fossils that date back 3.3 million years, linking directly to the history at the Cradle of Humankind, when the valley was a tropical paradise - but it also displays an incredible diversity of life.
This series of caves together form a national monument and intentions are that it should soon become a World Heritage Site. Primates in the shape of baboons and vervet monkeys make this their playground, whilst bush babies or galagos come out at night to forage for food. Like our forefathers, whose remains have been found in the Makapansgat catchment, these primates find a good supply of plant food in the form of seeds, tubers, fruits and berries. Nowhere is the biodiversity of early times in such rich display as in the caves of the Makapansgat Valley.
The hills surrounding the Makapansgat valley are dotted with caves. Many of these are silting up or filled up long ago and are re-opened by local quarries in search of limestone. During one such search during mining operations in the 1920s, a large number of fossil bones were blown out of a particularly large cave in the area. It was not fully investigated until 1947, when it was confirmed that there were remains of Australopithecus africanus or early man.
DID YOU KNOW?
Thirty five hominin specimens that represent about a dozen individuals have been recovered from the limeworks site up until now. There have also been some exciting finds signifying the type of fauna present in the Makapansgat valley at that time. Based on this, scientists think that the valley was a tropical forest with some open lands nearby.