The Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg will unveil possibly the largest display of human fossils anywhere in the world on March 18.
This was a message delivered to an audience at the American Natural History Museum in New York when South African Tourism partnered with National Geographic to share the latest discoveries of Homo Naledi that has provided further insight into human evolution.
The ancient species was discovered in a deep cave at Sterkfontein and Swartkans, just outside of Johannesburg in 2013.
It is the new species of our human ancestors that has shaken up the field of palaeoanthropology and its value, both scientific and touristic has not gone unnoticed.
President of South African Tourism for North America, Bangu Masisi says, “When Homo Naledi was founded by Professor Lee, we actually took the advantage of saying Johannesburg is not only a city lifestyle, you can drive just outside of Johannesburg and go and see where the origin of mankind is and I’ve just realized even in the US, that most people now are taking ancestry tests and they are finding out that most of them they’ve got African blood because that’s where I would imagine all of us come from.”
Paleoanthropologist Professor Lee Berger who led the excavation of Homo Naledi at the Rising Star Cave, believes the cradle of humankind is a place everyone should see.
“What we’re telling the world is that the cradle of humankind is the place to be if you want to see your origins. There is no better place to be welcomed home, we are all African, we all come from Africa and we’re doing with these extraordinary discoveries, showing that this is a place like no other. And in fact in March in the middle of March, we are going to be doing something no place has done in the world, we’re going put the originals of homonaledi on display as well as new discoveries.”
Homo Naledi teaches us that there’s more out there to be discovered
SABC News asked him what this 2013 discovery and his years of research have taught us about where we come from.
“Homo Naledi teaches us that there’s more out there to be discovered and our origins are extremely complex, we thought we had it all figured out. Ten years ago we were told you have a very simple story, now we know it’s not.”
With the fossils age yet to be revealed, a mystery that could be put to rest in the coming weeks.
“I’ve never been asked more about dating since I was 16 years old, not tonight but within the next few weeks we’re going to be telling you how old Homo Naledi it.”
This is seen as a boon for tourism from the United States, that saw a solid year on year rise in visitors to South Africa in 2016.
Masisi says, “After the dip of 2014 because of Ebola, which really had nothing to do with SA, because geographically West Africa its nearer to the US but compared to 2015, in 2016 we just the final number now up until December last year, we are up by 16% so it is really growing and we’re finding now that the millennials are the new people that are going to be traveling because most of our travellers were older people, the baby-boomers.”
Hoping to draw hundreds of thousands to the cradle by providing what they hope will be an authentic experience, in artifacts, in heritage but also in science.
Written by Sherwin Bryce-Pease
Published 25 February 2017