New fossil display: The days of dinosaurs (Running until Monday, 30th of June)
In the ongoing quest to reveal the secrets of our past, Maropeng will once again be showcasing the world’s oldest dinosaur eggs. The 190-million-year-old fossilised eggs, on loan from the Bernard Price Institute, belong to the Massospondylus carinatus species of dinosaurs, from the Early Jurassic period. The clutch of seven eggs was discovered in 1976 by the late Professor James Kitching in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The embedded embryonic bones were so fragile that they had to wait for somebody with the necessary skills to prepare the eggs for further study. In 2000, the eggs were taken to Canada, where Diane Scott of the University of Toronto was able to do the painstaking preparation. The project team from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Toronto were then able to study the embryos and reconstruct what the dinosaurs may have looked like, as juveniles and as adults. At birth the Massospondylus had long forelimbs and a huge head, and developed from an ungainly quadruped to a long-necked, small-headed dinosaur with a massive thick tail, short forelimbs and long hindlimbs. It was discovered that the lower jaws of two of the embryos on the point of hatching had empty teeth sockets, indicating that parents fed their young. This discovery was to become one of the oldest known examples of parental care.
With South Africans honouring their parents in May and June on Mother’s Day (11 May) and Father’s Day (08 June), the new fossil display serves as an apt reminder that parents will always be crucial for our survival. Entrance to the display is included in the entrance fee for the visitor centre at Maropeng. The Maropeng visitor centre is open daily from 9h00 to 17h00, and the last boat ride departs at 16h00. Guided tours are offered on weekends. The entrance fee for the visitor centre is R85 for adults and R50 for children between the ages of 4 and 14. Children accompanied by at least one adult qualify for an entry and lunch voucher package for R60 per child (excluding buffet lunch at the Tumulus restaurant). The entrance fee for Sterkfontein Caves is R80 for adults and R50 for children. A combination entrance ticket is available for R130 for adults and R80 for children, which includes entry into Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves.
A Search for Origins. Science, History and South Africa’s ‘Cradle of Humankind’. Book launch and discussion at Sterkfontein by Philip Bonner, Amanda Esterhuysen and Trefor Jenkins (Saturday, 17th of May)
A collaboration between Professor Philip Bonner, Doctor Amanda Esterhuysen and Professor Trefor Jenkins has resulted in the book A search for Origins. Science, History and South Africa’s ‘Cradle of Humankind’, published by Witwatersrand University Press. Much has been documented and published about the World Heritage Site by specialists in their fields, but nothing that presents a concise overview encompassing the evolution of plant and animal life, the development of humankind and the history of the area. This collective work will be a useful and fascinating guide to a non-specialist local and international audience.
Prof. Bonner, Dr Esterhuysen and Dr Jenkins will be discussing the book at Sterkfontein, the most significant site in the Cradle of Humankind, on Saturday, 17th of May at 10h00. Books will be available to purchase at a reduced rate. The cost of R125 includes the discussion, lunch at Sterkfontein, and access to the Sterkfontein Caves Museum. Guests wishing to do the cave tour will be able to purchase tickets at a reduced rate of R60 per person (the normal price is R80).
Saturn: The riddle of the ring and the mysterious moons (Saturday, 17th of May)
On Saturday, 17th of May, Maropeng’s resident astronomer Vincent Nettmann will take stargazers on an exploration of the Solar System’s second largest planet. Saturn is one of the most visually recognisable planets, due to the rings that encircle it which can be seen through a pair of binoculars on a clear night. Fortunately guests won’t need to bring binoculars to the stargazing, as Vincent will have a range of large aperture telescopes through which guests will be able to observe the planet and its rings, and perhaps one of the 60 known moons that orbit the planet.
Join Vincent in a quest for celestial knowledge, and indulge in a three-course dinner at the stylish Maropeng Hotel. Guests will be welcomed with a drink at 6pm, and an introduction by Vincent. After a delectable dinner, Vincent will give an engaging presentation and guests will be able to search the skies for the planet of Saturn, named after the Roman god of agriculture and harvest. The cost of R285 per person includes the presentation and a three-course dinner. The Maropeng Hotel will offer a special for stargazing guests wishing to stay overnight at R620 per person sharing per night including one night luxury accommodation and breakfast (R400 single supplement).
Swartkrans walking tours (Saturday, 31st of May)
Previously closed to the public, Maropeng is offering private walking tours to the famous hominid fossil site of Swartkrans. Scientist Morris Sutton, currently excavating at the site, will lead the tours and present the public with a rare opportunity to observe an active archaeological dig. The celebrated and controversial Robert Broom identified a new hominid species at Swartkrans, named Telanthropus capensis, now known as Homo ergaster, in addition to many fossil remnants of Australopithecus robustus, a species which went extinct about 1-million years ago. These finds were the first evidence ever discovered of the co-existence of two different types of hominids, proving that human evolution did not follow a linear sequence, but rather branched off, with some species becoming extinct. Swartkrans has yielded the largest sample of the Australopithecus robustus, and it is also internationally significant for the discovery of earliest evidence of the use of controlled fire, dating back to 1-million years. Bones that had been burnt at very high temperatures indicated that they were used to sustain naturally occurring fires, long before humans learnt how to create fire (evidence of which only dates back to 10-15 000 years).
The walking tours will depart from Sterkfontein at 9am. Morris Sutton will give a brief introduction, before leading the group on foot to Swartkrans. At the site, Morris will take guests through the site, presenting an overview of the history of Swartkrans and explaining the current excavations. The tour will conclude at a grass amphitheatre where an elegant picnic will be set up, before returning to Sterkfontein. As Swartkrans is an open excavation site, no persons under the age of 18 will be permitted. The cost is R550 per person, and booking is essential as the tours will be limited to 12 people.
Contact Sylvia on the details alongside for bookings, menus and further information. Booking is essential for presentations and special events as space is limited. Directions are available on the website alongside.
**Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves are powered by generators during power outages and continue to operate during load shedding**