Motsetsi Cave

Motsetsi Cave (also known as Motsetse) is situated in the fossil-rich Cradle of Humankind region of Gauteng. The cave has been open since 1999, and tens of thousands of fossils have been excavated from the site, although no hominid fossils have been found at Motsetsi Cave to date.

The Malapa fossil site is located less than 14km from Motsetsi Cave. Image courtesy of <a href='http://www.africanseer.com/african-articles/list-of-caves-in-africa/227855-malapa-fossil-site.html'>African Seer</a>

The Malapa fossil site is located less than 14km from Motsetsi Cave. Image courtesy of African Seer

Motsetsi Cave is located 14km east of Sterkfontein and Kromdraai, and is dated between 1 and 1.6 million years old. The fossil-bearing cavity has been declared a South African National Heritage Site and is located about 45km north-west of the City of Johannesburg.

Historical background

Motsetsi Cave was discovered by Professor Lee Berger in 1999, giving way to a series of excavations in the area. Excavations are conducted by the University of Witwatersrand, although the University of Zurich has also led a few excavations at the site.

Excavations at Motsetsi Cave have yielded more than 2000 macro-mammal specimens – bovids and carnivore fossils are abundant. Lime mining has also taken place at the site, and miners' rubble covers much of the deposit.

Professor Lee Berger discovered the Motsetsi Caves in Cradle of Humankind. Image courtesy of <a href='http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lee_Berger_and_Job_Kibii_at_the_moment_of_discovery_of_Malapa_hominid_2.JPG'>Lee Berger</a>

Professor Lee Berger discovered the Motsetsi Caves in Cradle of Humankind. Image courtesy of Lee Berger

Places of interest

The Cradle of Humankind area boasts 13 excavation sites that are recognised as national heritage sites, both internationally and by the South African Heritage Resources Agency. For those wanting to experience the birthplace of humankind firsthand, the official visitor centres for the Cradle of Humankind, Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves, are within an easy hour’s drive from Johannesburg.

Maropeng is a world-class exhibition centre that focuses on the development of humans and our ancestors over the past few million years. On arrival, visitors are met by what appears to be a massive burial mound, the entry point into the secrets of humankind’s beginnings.

The Sterkfontein Caves, the site of the most longstanding, continuous palaeoanthropological dig in the world, are world-renowned for their fossil finds. These caves have produced the pre-human skull popularly known as “Mrs Ples,” and an almost complete hominid skeleton affectionately known as “Little Foot”.