Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Trip to Sterkfontein, cradle of humankind

Sterkfontein caves

It was on the 23rd of March 2006 when we visited Sterkfontein cave. The area is located within the Isaac Edwin Stegmann Reserve about 10km from Krugersdorp. It is found in Western Gauteng and North West province of South Africa. These caves were donated to the University of Witwatersrand by the Stegmann family.
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Tour guide

Rufus Mokwena was our tour guide. He gave us the rules before going to the cave for example asthmatic people were not allowed to go to the cave. He advised us to be close to each other in the cave. Rufus decided to combine our group with a group of four people who were not from CSIR. We were together with them during our touring.

On the way to the cave.

We observed the gabbros which were written different types of species. The species include Coelacanth fossil fish, Lystro sourus which was the mammal-like reptile, Thrinaxodon was also a mammal-like reptile, Dinosaurs birds called Euparkeria, Pangaea, Massospondylus which was South African dinosaur and it was an ancestor of Ostrich. The year which the species were found were also indicated.

We also observed the gabbros of the foot of the Australopithecus from Sterkfontein cave which was 3.3 million years old. It was 4 feet tall. We observed Lommon an ancestor of Homo, Mrs Ples which was Australopithecus africanus from Sterkfontein was 2.6 million years old. We also observed gabbros of Homo sapiens from Africa rock art and Eland Taurotragus from South African rock art etc.

Underground cave

Rufus told us that the main entrance of the caves are the man made whereas the caves
are natural. There were steps down at the entrance and inside the caves which were also man made. The electricity was there to provide light for us. Rufus had a torch which he used to light on the way and top of the cave. There were many pathways inside the cave going to the different directions. We were fortunate because we were with Rufus who knew the cave very well. We watched the video presentation in the cave. The presentation was done by Professor Ron Clark. The presentation was about the little foot. We did not see the fossilised remains because they were put in a dark place. We were told that the skeleton was there and it had 3.5 million year old.

At the centre of the cave, we observed the dolomites rocks shaped like an elephant and also looked like an African map. The shapes were unique and aesthetic. The dolomites were covered by the stele tight at the lowest part; it was 16m below the surface. We saw the stalactite clear water and we were told that inside the water only shrines are found there and they are blind. It was also the habitat for bats. The underground cave is very beautiful. On our way out from the cave we also observed the stature of Dr Robert Broom carried the fossil skull of Mrs Ples.

Museum or hominid exhibition hall


We also went to the exhibition hall where we observed different types of hominids fossil, skulls, teeth, bones and stones that were found long time ago and on each fossil was written the year that it lived. The different pictures of earliest hominids, modern human, chimpanzees and gorillas etc were there and it was interesting.

Conclusion

I have learned to work as team. In the caves, we were closed to each other to ensure that we were all protected. I have also learned to trust a leader. We trusted Rufus that he would leads us with the right directions in the cave. We were not injured even though it was hard to walk in the cave. He made his voice audible to us as a group. He led us nicely until we went out from the cave.

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