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The oldest ancestors of humankind were found in the early 20th century, 30 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg. These remains were preserved for millions of years thanks to a combination of limestone and other sediments which allowed for the formation and preservation of fossils.
The hilly landscape around Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Kromdraai continues to yield a treasure trove of scientific information. The area is called ‘The Cradle of Humankind’. The most complete skull of an Australopithecus africanus was found here in 1947. Scottish palaeontologist Robert Broom classified it as ‘Plesianthropus transvaalensis’, which means ‘near-man from the Transvaal’. The more than 2½ million-year-old skull was quickly nicknamed 'Mrs. Ples' and became world-famous in no time.