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Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa

Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa

The Taung Skull Fossil Site, part of the extension to the site inscribed in 1999, is the place where in 1924 the celebrated Taung Skull – a specimen of the species Australopithecus africanus – was found. Makapan Valley, also in the site, features in its many archaeological caves traces of human occupation and evolution dating back some 3.3 million years. The area contains essential elements that define the origin and evolution of humanity. Fossils found there have enabled the identification of several specimens of early hominids, more particularly of Paranthropus, dating back between 4.5 million and 2.5 million years, as well as evidence of the domestication of fire 1.8 million to 1 million years ago.

Sites des hominidés fossiles d’Afrique du Sud

C’est sur ce site que le célèbre crâne fossile de Taung – un spécimen de l’espèce Australopithecus africanus – fut découvert en 1924. La vallée de Makapan, elle aussi sur ce site, abrite dans ses nombreuses grottes archéologiques des traces d’occupation et d’évolution humaines remontant à quelque 3,3 millions d’années. L’ensemble de la région contient des éléments essentiels définissant l’origine et l’évolution de l’humanité. Les fossiles trouvés ont permis l’identification de plusieurs spécimens des premiers hominidés, plus particulièrement du Paranthropus, vieux de 2,5 à 4,5 millions d’années, ainsi que des preuves de la domestication du feu il y a 1,8 million à 1 million d’années. Il s’agit d’une extension du site inscrit en 1999.

موقع الهومنيدات (متحجّرات الإنسان البدائي) في ستيركفونتين وسوارتكرانس وكرومدراي وأنفيرون

في هذا الموقع بالذات، تم اكتشاف جمجمة تونغ المتحجّرة وهي نموذج عن الأوسترالوبيتيكوس أفريكنوس (الإنسان البدائي) في العام 1924. ويضم وادي ماكابان الواقع هو أيضاً على هذا الموقع بمغاوره الأثرية المتعددة آثار استقرار وتطوّر بشريين ترقى إلى حوالى 3.3 مليون سنة. وتشمل المنطقة عناصر أساسية تحدّد مصدر البشرية وتطوّرها. وقد سمحت المتحجّرات التي تمّ اكتشافها بالتعرّف إلى عدد كبير من النماذج البشريّة الأولى وبشكل خاص البارانتروبوس الذي تعود جذوره إلى حوالى 2.5 إلى 4.5 مليون سنة، بالإضافة إلى براهين عن سيطرة الإنسان على النار قبل 1.8 إلى 1 مليون سنة. يشكّل هذا الموقع امتداداً لموقع مسجّل في العام 1999.

source: UNESCO/ERI

斯泰克方丹、 斯瓦特科兰斯、 科罗姆德拉伊和维罗恩斯的化石遗址

汤恩头骨化石遗址是该遗址的扩展项目,1924年在这里发现了非洲南方古猿的一种——举世闻名的汤恩人猿的头骨。麦卡潘山谷也是遗迹的一部分,山谷中有许多考古洞穴,人类在此居住和进化的历史可以追溯到330万年前。这里有能够确定人类起源和进化的重要线索。在此发现的化石确定了早期原始人类的一些标本,尤其是距今450万至250万年前的南方古猿的标本,以及180万至100万年前人类使用火的证据。这是1999年列入《世界遗产名录》的该遗址的扩展项目。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Стеркфонтейн, Сварткранс, Кромдрай и окрестности – места находок ископаемых гоминид

Таунг-Скал-Фоссил-Сайт – это одно из добавлений к объекту, внесенному в Список всемирного наследия в 1999 г. Здесь в 1924 г. был найден знаменитый череп Таунга, принадлежавший «австралопитеку африканус». Долина Макапан, также добавленная в состав данного объекта наследия, выделяется обилием найденных в здешних пещерах археологических следов, подтверждающих присутствие человека около 3,3 млн. лет тому назад. Эта территория содержит важные свидетельства происхождения и эволюции человечества. Ископаемые остатки, обнаруженные здесь, сделали возможной идентификацию ряда образцов древних гоминид, в особенности – образцов парантропа, датируемых периодом между 4,5 и 2,5 млн. лет тому назад. Также найденные находки являются свидетельством начала использования в быту огня в период от 1,8 до 1,0 млн. лет тому назад.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Sitios de homínidos fósiles de Sudáfrica

Fue en este sitio donde se encontró, en 1924, el célebre cráneo fósil de Taung, perteneciente a un espécimen de australopiteco africano. También se halla en este sitio el valle de Makapan, donde hay numerosas grutas con vestigios arqueológicos que atestiguan la presencia de un asentamiento humano de 3.300.000 años de antigüedad. El conjunto de la zona posee elementos esenciales para poder determinar el origen y evolución de la humanidad. Los fósiles encontrados han permitido identificar varios especímenes de los primeros homínidos –en particular del parántropo (2.500.000 a 4.500.000 años de antigüedad) – y obtener pruebas de la domesticación del fuego por parte del hombre en una época cuya antigüedad oscila entre 1.800.000 y 1.000.000 de años. Este sitio es una extensión del que se inscribió en la Lista del Patrimonio Mundial en 1999.

source: UNESCO/ERI

スタークフォンテン、スワートクランズ、クロムドライの人類化石遺跡群及び周辺地域

source: NFUAJ

Hominide fossielengebieden Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai en omgeving

In het fossielgebied Taung Skull werd in 1924 de beroemde Taung Skull gevonden; een exemplaar van het fossiel Australopithecus africanus. In hetzelfde gebied ligt de Makapan vallei, waar – in de vele archeologische grotten – sporen gevonden zijn van menselijke bewoning en evolutie daterend van zo'n 3,3 miljoen jaar geleden. Het gebied bevat essentiële elementen die het ontstaan en de evolutie van de mensheid definiëren. Er zijn fossielen gevonden die identificatie mogelijk heeft gemaakt van verschillende exemplaren van vroege mensachtigen – in het bijzonder de Paranthropus – daterend van tussen de 4,5 miljoen en 2,5 miljoen jaar geleden.

Source: unesco.nl

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Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The undulating landscape containing the fossil hominid sites of South Africa comprises dolomitic limestone ridges with rocky outcrops and valley grasslands, wooded along watercourses and in areas of natural springs. Most sites are in caves or are associated with rocky outcrops or water sources. The serial listing includes the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs, and the Makapan Valley and Taung Skull Fossil Site. The Taung Skull, found in a limestone quarry at Dart Pinnacle amongst numerous archaeological and palaeontological sites south-west of the Sterkfontein Valley area, is a specimen of the species Australopithecus Africanus. Fossils found in the many archaeological caves of the Makapan Valley have enabled the identification of several specimens of early hominids, more particularly of Paranthropus, dating back between 4.5 million and 2.5 million years, as well as evidence of the domestication of fire 1.8 million to 1 million years ago. Collectively these sites have produced abundant scientific information on the evolution of modern humans over at least the past 3.5 million years.  They constitute a vast reserve of scientific information, with enormous potential. 

The sites contain within their deposits all of the key interrelated and interdependent elements in their palaeontological relationships.  Alongside and predating the hominid period of occupation is a sequence of fossil mammals, micro-mammals and invertebrates which provide a window onto faunal evolution, palaeobiology and palaeoecology stretching back into the Pliocene. This record has come to play a crucial role in furthering our understanding of human evolution and the appearance of modern human behaviour .

The fossil evidence contained within these sites proves conclusively that the African continent is the undisputed Cradle of Humankind. 

Criterion (iii): The nominated serial site bears exceptional testimony to some of the most important Australopithecine specimens dating back more than 3.5 million years. This therefore throws light on to the origins and then the evolution of humankind, through the hominisation process.

Criterion (vi): The serially nominated sites are situated in unique natural settings that have created a suitable environment for the capture and preservation of human and animal remains that have allowed scientists a window into the past.  Thus, this site constitutes a vast reserve of scientific data of universal scope and considerable potential, linked to the history of the most ancient periods of humankind.

Integrity (2005)

The Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs together with Makapan Valley and Taung Skull Fossil Site comprise five separate components situated in different provinces and each has a buffer zone. Collectively these components contain the necessary evidence of sites where abundant scientific information on the evolution of modern humans over the past 3.5 million years was uncovered.  Furthermore, the nominated serial site covers an area big enough to constitute a vast reserve of scientific information, with enormous potential.

Authenticity (2005)

As regards authenticity, the sites contain within their deposits all of the key interrelated and interdependent elements in their natural palaeontological relationships.  Thus, the breccia representing the cave fillings contains the fossilised remains of hominids, their lithicultural remains (from about 2.0 million years onwards), fossils of other animals, plants and pollen, as well as geochemical and sedimentological evidence of the conditions under which each member of the deposits was laid down.  They represent a succession of palaeo‑ecosystems.  The caves, breccias and strata from which quantities of fossils or tools have been extracted, together with the landscape are generally intact, but are vulnerable to development pressures, villagers’ use of the environment and tourism.

Protection and management requirements (2005)

The components of the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs together with Makapan Valley and Taung Skull Fossil Site are currently protected as National Heritage sites  in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act, 1999 (Act No. 25 of 1999). In terms of this legislation, n o person may destroy, damage, deface, excavate, alter, remove from its original position, subdivide or change the planning status of any heritage site without a permit issued by the heritage resources authority responsible for the protection of such site.

Management of each site is guided by the World Heritage Convention Act (Act No 49 of 1999); the National Environmental Protected Areas Act (Act No 57 of 2003), the National Environmental Management Act (Act No 107 of 1998), the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (Act No 10 of 2004) and the Physical Planning Act, 1967 (Act No. 88 of 1967) . 

In terms of these pieces of legislation, mining or prospecting is completely prohibited in a World Heritage Site and all developments are subjected to environmental impact assessments. 

There are also site management plans for each of the sites as well as monitoring and evaluation programmes for each.  

The five components of the property are situated in separate provinces in South Africa, each with a different combination of structures dealing with its management. Management issues at the five serial sites differ significantly. At the time of inscription of the first three sites it was envisaged that there would be a joint World Heritage Property Management Committee and that each Province and Site Management Authority would nominate members to the joint World Heritage Property Management Committee. It was envisaged that the function of the committee would be to streamline inter-site management, to discuss common management problems and to function as a communications forum for the sites. The equitable sharing of the benefits of increased tourism, joint funding proposals and the sharing of heritage-based skills were all issues to be considered.

Long Description

The Sterkfontein area contains an exceptionally large and scientifically significant group of sites which throw light on the earliest ancestors of humanity. They constitute a vast reserve of scientific data of universal scope and considerable potential, linked to the history of the most ancient periods of humanity. They bear exceptional testimony to some of the most important Australopithecine specimens dating back more than 3.5 million years; this throws unique light on the origins and then the evolution of humankind through the hominization process.

The landscape comprises a number of fossil-bearing cave deposits which are considered to be of outstanding universal value, because they encapsulate a superbly preserved record of the fauna, including an invaluable record of the stages in the emergence and evolution of humanity, over the past 3.5 million years. This makes it, without doubt, one of the world's most important sites for human evolutionary studies and researches. The site is located on a hill to the south of the Rietspruit river valley 45 km west of Johannesburg and 5 km north of the closest urban centre. The palaeontological and palaeoanthropological sites are a series of caves found in the dolomite band and its associated breccias which run through the entire area, creating a hilly terrain. The area is covered mainly by grass, with more dense vegetation along the rivers.

Some of the sites were discovered as a result of lime-mining activities, now discontinued. Sterkfontein is located on a hill to the south of the Rietspruit River valley. Of the nine included in the area, only three (Drimolen, Coopers B, Gondolin) have so far revealed hominid remains; Wonder Cave, Gladysvale, Bolt's Farm, Minnaar's Caves, Plover's Lake and Haasgat have only produced faunal remains but they possess a strong potential for revealing hominid remains. The fossils of the Sterkfontein valley caves depict South Africa's landscape and fauna 3.5 million years ago. Some of the most important specimens of australopithecines, collateral ancestors of modern man, have been discovered in this area. Sterkfontein geologically revealed the earliest record of hominids in southern Africa (close to 3.5 million years ago).

The Taung Skull Fossil Site consists of archaeological, palaeontological, historic and mining sites that are important in heritage terms. Makapan Valley consists of palaeontological, archaeological and historic sites. The components of the Taung Skull Fossil Site includes archaeological sites whose importance is widely recognized. It is primarily the palaeontological and palaeo-anthropological component which has made the Taung Skull Fossil Site so celebrated. This applies not only to the scientific world but also to the cultural world which is fascinated by the origin and history of humankind, in view of the fact, which is now indisputable, that Africa is the cradle of humankind. The components of Makapan Valley: this ensemble, of acknowledged richness, consists of palaeontological, archaeological and historic sites. The whole of this zone contains essential elements that define the origin and evolution of humankind. Thus, as a result of exploration and scientific analysis:

  • geological strata have revealed the first traces of hominids in southern Africa;
  • stone and bone tools, dating back 2-1.5million years, have been uncovered, particularly at the time of the discovery in 1936 of the first adult Australopithecus ;
  • fossil elements have enabled the identification of several specimens of early hominids, linked to the Homo genus, a collateral ancestor of modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens ), more particularly specimens of Paranthropus: Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus robustus .
  • evidence of the domestication of fire, another specific characteristic of human behaviour, has been detected, for the period extending from 1.8million to 1million years ago.
Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The fossils of the Sterkfontein Valley caves depict South Africa's landscape and fauna 3.5 million years ago. Some of the most important specimens of australopithecines (Australopithecus (Paranthropus) robustus and Australopithecus (Plesianthropus) africanus), collateral ancestors of modern man, have been discovered in this area. Sterkfontein geologically revealed the earliest record of hominid in southern Africa (close to 3.5 million years ago). It is also historically the earliest discovery of an adult australopithecine in 1936, by Robert Broom, the richest source of fossils of this species and the oldest stone tools recovered (2 to 1.5 million years BP). Specimens of Homo habilis have also been found in the breccias of Sterkfontein caves. They are key elements in determining the origin and the evolution of mankind. Their belonging to the lineage that gave birth to Homo sapiens sapiens (modern man) was demonstrated by proving that their cranial capacity, their diet, and their upright posture were all indicative of a kinship to modern man. Stone and bone tools, dating to around 2 to 1.5 million years BP, have been brought to light at Sterkfontein, Kromdraai, and Swartkrans which support this hypothesis.

Evidence for the controlled use of fire has been observed in the Swartkrans cave (1.8 to 1 million years BP), another specific trait of human behaviour. The antiquity of these fossils and their relative position as primates with indisputable hominid traits proclaimed Africa as the cradle of humanity.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation