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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Swartkrans and Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Location South Africa
Type Cultural
Criteria (iii)(vi)
Reference 915
UNESCO region Africa
Coordinates 25°55′45″S 27°47′20″E / 25.92917°S 27.78889°E / -25.92917; 27.78889Coordinates: 25°55′45″S 27°47′20″E / 25.92917°S 27.78889°E / -25.92917; 27.78889
Inscription history
Inscription 1999 (23rd Session)
Extensions 2005
Swartkrans is located in Gauteng
Location of Swartkrans in South Africa Gauteng#South Africa.
Swartkrans is located in South Africa
Location of Swartkrans in South Africa Gauteng#South Africa.

Swartkrans is a fossil-bearing cave designated as a South African National Heritage Site, located about 20 mi (32 km) from Johannesburg.[1] It is located in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.[2]

Swartkrans is a farm near[clarification needed] to Sterkfontein, notable for being extremely rich in archaeological material, particularly hominin remains. It was purchased by the University of the Witwatersrand in 1968. The oldest deposits present at the site are believed to be between 1.8 and 2 million years old.[citation needed]

Some of the earliest evidence of controlled use of fire by humans can be found at Swartkrans, up to 1.5 million years ago.[3][4]

Fossils discovered in the limestone of Swartkrans include Telanthropus capensis (a variety of Homo erectus), Paranthropus and Homo habilis. S. V. Drobyshevskiy identifies remains of Homo naledi with telanthropus.[5]

Noted paleontologist Robert Broom was a frequent digger. He was followed by C. K. 'Bob' Brain, whose excavations at the site inspired his book The Hunters or the Hunted? in which he demonstrated that instead of being bloodthirsty killer apes, the hominin fossils found at the site were themselves victims of predation by big cats. Originally, it was believed that Dinofelis was responsible for such killings, though recent evidence suggests that hominids were likely the victims of Megantereon or leopards based on carbon isotope ratios taken from each predator.[6]


  1. ^ "9/2/233/0012 - Swartkrans Palaeontological Site, Zwartkrans 172, Krugersdorp District". South African Heritage Resources Agency. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Lesnik, J.; Thackeray, J.F. (2007). "The efficiency of stone and bone tools for opening termite mounds: implications for hominid tool use at Swartkrans". South African Journal of Science. 103: 354–356. 
  3. ^ C. K. Brain; A. Sillent (1988-12-01). "Evidence from the Swartkrans cave for the earliest use of fire". Nature. 336 (6198): 464–466. doi:10.1038/336464a0. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  4. ^ Rincon, Paul (22 March 2004). "Bones hint at first use of fire". BBC. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Дробышевский С. В. Вспоминая телантропов: крах «теории Homo naledi»?
  6. ^ http://www.maropeng.co.za/news/entry/dinofelis_hominid_hunter_or_misunderstood_feline

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