The Cradle of Humankind, South Africa
Human Evolution History
Three million years ago, an eagle soared above an enormous forest in South Africa and zeroed in on its target. Among a group of hominids searching for fruits, nuts and seeds, a 3-year-old child had strayed too far away from its mother. The eagle swooped down, grabbed the 25-pound toddler with its talons and flew off to its nest, perched above the opening to an underground cave. As the eagle dined on its meal, scraps fell into the cave below.
Similarly hair-raising tales—hominids being dragged into caves by leopards or accidentally falling into hidden holes—explain why South Africa’s limestone caves are the world’s greatest source of hominid fossils. About 900 have been recovered from more than a dozen sites scattered over 180 square miles of grassland within a few hours’ drive from Johannesburg. The area is known as the Cradle of Humankind. Scientists have identified at least four hominid species—in addition to our own, Homo sapiens—that lived in this region at various times over the past 3.5 million years.