A list in no particular order of Gauteng History & Heritage.

Maropeng’s Stone Park

Maropeng’s Stone Park is, on the one hand, symbolic of humankind’s impact on nature, and on the other, a unique, new functional space created in the grounds of the Cradle of Humankind visitor centre.

Introducing the theme of human achievement, two massive granite stone tools make for an imposing sight at the entrance to the park, which is expected to become a popular multifunctional area in which visitors can mingle, relax and celebrate.

Its open design and semi-circular arrangement of large granite blocks allow the park to be used as a venue for concerts, picnics, festivals or weddings, while bespoke lighting illuminates the granite curve at night, making it especially appealing for evening functions.

Designers FSG Landscaping appointed a team of 30 to work on the large-scale landscaping installation, which was envisioned to blend in with the surrounding landscape. Great care was taken to minimise disturbance of flora and fauna at this historically significant site. The park was completed in late 2017.

With conservation playing a guiding role in the project, plants that were removed have been replanted on the new site, along with new indigenous flora such as flowering shrubs.

Macit Tours & Travel

Macit Tours & Travel is an owner-run tour and travel company in Johannesburg. The Macit Tours component specialises in organising guided and self-drive tours in Southern Africa, while its sister company Macit Travel focuses on global corporate and leisure travel.

Consistently rated as “excellent” on TripAdvisor, Macit Tours has been in operation for almost 20 years.

Macit offers day tours in and around Johannesburg, as well as cross-border trips to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. In addition to organising tours, it also arranges airport transfers, accommodation, car rental and global flights for clients.

Tours on offer fall under various categories – historical, wildlife and adventure – and visitors can choose from half-day, full-day and extended tours.

Johannesburg city tours might include a half-day outing to the city centre, the Origins Centre at Wits University or Constitution Hill, while a full-day excursion could extend to Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, Hartbeespoort Dam, ziplining at Sparkling Waters Hotel and Spa in the Magaliesberg, Harties Cableway, or a Soweto township tour.

Tours are customised to suit your requirements and budget and cater for two to 50 guests, with transport provided in comfortable vans or buses, depending on group size. Macit prides itself on personal service.

Macit is your one-stop provider of corporate and leisure travel services, also making provision for conferences, incentives and tailor-made holidays.

Macit Tours & Travel Contact Details

Email to chic@macit.co.za or dee@macit.co.za

Or telephone +27 11 784 1358 or Cell +27 82 683 0799

The Origins Centre

The Origins Centre is a world-class museum that provides insight into the intriguing origins of humankind and human development. If you are fascinated by the theory of evolution, then this centre at the University of the Witwatersrand, is a must-visit destination when it comes to Johannesburg tourism.

Opened in 2006, Origins Centre showcases Africa’s unique heritage and culture through rock art paintings dating back thousands of years, collected from all over Southern Africa. The rock paintings were the work of the San and visitors can expect to learn about the fascinating beliefs and rituals – such as hunting and the trance dance – of this ancient tribe. The rock art collection has been sourced from various regions in southern Africa by the Wits Rock Art Research Institute.

The museum combines cutting-edge technology and the creative ingenuity of South African artists to guide visitors on a journey beginning at the earliest evidence of humans, working its way through the development of art, symbolism, and technology on the African continent. The display includes fossils discovered in South Africa, as well as numerous palaeoanthropological, and archaeological materials.

The exhibitions are designed to cater to a wide range of age groups and knowledge, from young children to those with an academic interest in the subject. Information is packaged in a diverse range of mediums, including a virtual reality computer game, films and projections.

Origins Centre also houses an extensive range of ancient tools and artefacts of spiritual importance to early humans. On average, the museum experience runs for 90 minutes with the aid of an audio guide that is available in six languages: Zulu, Sotho, English, Afrikaans, French and German.
Visitors are also able to apply for a DNA test to trace their ancestral origins. The test is conducted at the National Health Laboratory Services, located at the corner of Joubert and De Kotze streets in Braamfontein.

The Mapungubwe Collection

Mapungubwe was a famous gold-trading kingdom that reached its peak many centuries ago in the mid-1200s AD. Today you can see the famous Mapungubwe gold hoard on display at the Arts Building on the University of Pretoria campus in Tshwane.

Discovered in a burial mound in Mapungubwe in (what is now) Limpopo province in the 1930s, the gold collection includes hundreds of gold bracelets and anklets, thousands of gold beads and tens of thousands of glass beads, a small selection of which are on display in a one-room exhibition.

The star attraction is the exquisite golden rhino statuette. Made entirely from gold sheets and held together with gold nails, the Mapungubwe rhino is one of the most impressive archaeological discoveries made in Southern Africa. Other extraordinary golden items on display include bovine-like creatures and a feline statuette similarly fashioned from gold sheeting, a ceremonial bowl and part of a golden sceptre.

The Arts Building also contains a large ceramics collection that includes 18th-century Dutch vases, bowls and decorative tiles, and a variety of historic Chinese ceramics, as well as a handful of 19th-century Dutch oil paintings and items of Dutch furniture that date back to the same period. No photography is allowed.

Hours: Monday to Friday 8 am to 4 pm; closed Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

The Mapungubwe Collection Contact details:
  • Tel: 012 420 5450
  • Email: museums@up.ac.za

 

Plovers Lake

Plovers Lake is situated in the fossil-rich Cradle of Humankind region of Gauteng. The cave has been open since the late 1980s and thousands of fossils have been excavated from the site.

Plovers Lake is located 4km southeast of Sterkfontein and Kromdraai, and is dated around 1 million years old, based on the size of porcupine fossils found at the site. The fossil-bearing cavity has been declared a South African National Heritage Site and is located about 36km north-west of the City of Johannesburg.

Historical background

Plovers Lake has had two periods of excavation – one in the late 1980s and early 1990s; and the second from 2000 to 2004. The first excavation is referred to as the “Outer Deposits”, and was led by CK “Bob” Brain and Francis Thackeray. The second is known as “Inner Deposits” and was conducted by Lee Berger from the University of the Witwatersrand the Steve Churchill from Duke University.

The excavation of the Outer Deposits unveiled a fossil baboon which had survived a saber-toothed cat attack. During the excavation of Inner Deposits, Berger and Churchill later discovered 25,000 fossil remains during the second excavation – including knives, spear points, tools and fragmentary hominid remains.

Places of interest

The Cradle of Humankind area boasts 13 excavation sites that are recognised as national heritage sites, both internationally and by the South African Heritage Resources Agency. For those wanting to experience the birthplace of humankind firsthand, the official visitor centres for the Cradle of Humankind, Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves, are within an easy hour’s drive from Johannesburg.

Maropeng is a world-class exhibition centre that focuses on the development of humans and our ancestors over the past few million years. On arrival, visitors are met by what appears to be a massive burial mound, the entry point into the secrets of humankind’s beginnings.

The Sterkfontein Caves, the site of the most longstanding, continuous palaeoanthropological dig in the world, are world-renowned for their fossil finds. These caves have produced the pre-human skull popularly known as “Mrs Ples,” and an almost complete hominid skeleton affectionately known as “Little Foot”.

Ditsong National Museum of Natural History

The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, formerly the Transvaal Museum, is South Africa’s leading natural history museum and one of the oldest in the country. The museum is situated in the centre of Pretoria (Tshwane) and was founded as the Staatsmuseum of South Africa on 1 December 1892.

The museum has a vast range of displays and exhibits that are of great educational value, including hundreds of taxidermied birds and animals, amazing collections of insects and butterflies, and a valuable geological collection. The story of life on Earth and of the unique geological foundations of the African continent are outlined, and the theory of evolution is explained in detail, illustrated with fossils of prehistoric creatures that once roamed across South Africa and detailed diagrams.

One of the key features of the museum is the Austin Roberts Bird Hall. Visitors will find an astonishing collection of 875 species of stuffed birds indigenous to South Africa, including eagles, owls and even vultures. Information on the migration, feeding and flight patterns of South Africa’s different bird species can also be studied in the well-arranged hall.

The museum is easily accessed by wheelchair and display texts are also transcribed in Braille for the blind. School and family visits are accommodated and the museum is well used by researchers from across the globe working to understand the diversity of wildlife in Southern Africa.

Ditsong National Museum of Natural History Contact Details:

Physical Address
GaMohle Building,
70 WF Nkomo (Church) Street West,
Pretoria

Phone: +27 12 492 5744

Email: info@ditsong.org.za

Stargazing at Maropeng

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is one of the biggest attractions on the Gauteng map. It’s just a 40-minute drive from Johannesburg, which is far enough to escape the bright city lights that make viewing stars difficult. Maropeng, the official visitor’s centre for the cradle region, offers stargazing evenings with local astronomy expert Vincent Nettmann who will point out all the most significant constellations and nebulae.

These monthly ‘astro-dinner dates’ are planned well in advance and bookings are recommended, however, they’re definitely among the best things to do in Gauteng. Evenings begin with sundowners at the Maropeng Hotel, where you can marvel at the impressive sunset views over the rolling hills of the protected Cradle of Humankind region. Then it’s time for dinner followed by a stargazing talk led by Nettman who has his own style of ‘edutainment’ which mixes facts about the night skies with entertaining stories from African folklore.

According to the passionate stargazer Nettman, the southern hemisphere’s astronomical wealth if far richer than the North’s. He explains, “in the southern hemisphere there are two thirds more stars than in the northern hemisphere – it’s just the way nature is. Then if you look at light pollution in the big cities in Europe and America, there’s so much of it compared to down here.”

Maropeng’s monthly stargazing events will have you examining stellar nurseries, pondering how the universe began and what fate awaits it, viewing Hubble Space Telescope images and mapping out the Milky Way. Subject to weather conditions, you will be able to observe sky objects and the moon through a range of large aperture telescopes.

Booking is essential. Tickets can be booked via the Maropeng website’s

Website: Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

GENERAL CONTACT
RESTAURANT BOOKINGS
HOTEL CONTACT DETAILS

 

Motsetsi Cave

Motsetsi Cave (also known as Motsetse) is situated in the fossil-rich Cradle of Humankind region of Gauteng. The cave has been open since 1999, and tens of thousands of fossils have been excavated from the site, although no hominid fossils have been found at Motsetsi Cave to date.

Motsetsi Cave is located 14km east of Sterkfontein and Kromdraai, and is dated between 1 and 1.6 million years old. The fossil-bearing cavity has been declared a South African National Heritage Site and is located about 45km north-west of the City of Johannesburg.

Historical background

Motsetsi Cave was discovered by Professor Lee Berger in 1999, giving way to a series of excavations in the area. Excavations are conducted by the University of Witwatersrand, although the University of Zurich has also led a few excavations at the site.

Excavations at Motsetsi Cave have yielded more than 2000 macro-mammal specimens – bovids and carnivore fossils are abundant. Lime mining has also taken place at the site, and miners’ rubble covers much of the deposit.

Places of interest

The Cradle of Humankind area boasts 13 excavation sites that are recognised as national heritage sites, both internationally and by the South African Heritage Resources Agency. For those wanting to experience the birthplace of humankind firsthand, the official visitor centres for the Cradle of Humankind, Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves, are within an easy hour’s drive from Johannesburg.

Maropeng is a world-class exhibition centre that focuses on the development of humans and our ancestors over the past few million years. On arrival, visitors are met by what appears to be a massive burial mound, the entry point into the secrets of humankind’s beginnings.

The Sterkfontein Caves, the site of the most longstanding, continuous palaeoanthropological dig in the world, are world-renowned for their fossil finds. These caves have produced the pre-human skull popularly known as “Mrs Ples,” and an almost complete hominid skeleton affectionately known as “Little Foot”.