The Cradle of Humankind

Yesterday (Friday), Imogene, Jalina and I went out to Maropeng, about half an hour from African Leadership Academy, to visit the cave where anthropologists have been at work unearthing the skeleton of “Little Foot”, an Australopithecus hominid skeleton dated at 3.3 million years old.  The skeleton is 96% unearthed–they are actually using dental tools to dig it out so that nothing is damaged or lost! While the actual skeleton is profoundly off -limits (behind TWO locked gates), visitors are able to descend into the cave for a little tour.

The cave was originally discovered by a farmer on his land.  Its original importance was the abundance of limestone, used for some purpose by an Italian gold mining company. The skeleton was not discovered until much more recently.  Anyway, it’s nice and cool in the cave–a consistent 18 degrees centigrade–and filled with stalagmites, stalagtites, an underground lake (with blind, white shrimp), lots of limestone, braschia (the composite rock of dirt and gravel from above ground that fall in through openings and are solidified by the constant dripping of mineral-rich water), and, naturally, bats.  Most of the caverns are pretty large, having been blasted open by the Italian engineers, but at some points we had to scootch down to pass through openings about a meter in height.  Very cool.

Other than the bats that liked to fly right over Jalina’s head, the high point of the cave trip was when Imogene volunteered to taste the limestone (since it is an ingredient in toothpaste). The salty, bitter taste lasted all the way to lunch!



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