Taung, Mokopane get world heritage status

South Africa’s application to have the world heritage status of Sterkfontein’s fossil hominid sites extended to include the Taung Skull fossil site in North West province and the Mokopane Valley in Limpopo was accepted on Friday.

The Department of Arts and Culture said in a statement from the world heritage committee meeting in Durban that the Taung Skull site exhibited the same characteristics as hominid sites such as Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Kromdraai.

It was therefore decided that, although not physically linked, an application would made to extend the Sterkfontein site to include Taung.

“The application to incorporate the Taung site derives from the significance of the Taung Skull, the partial skull of a juvenile ape-man or Australopethicus Africanus,” the department said.

“The Taung Skull is regarded as evidence of the ‘missing link’ in hominid evolution and the location of the find proved that humankind evolved in Africa and not Asia.”

The Mokopane Valley meanwhile, had ancient caves and sites that had preserved “a long and unprecedented record of early human occupation” from the Australopithecine—ape-man times—over three and a half million years ago, to the present.

“It also captures a technological record ranging from the Early Stone Age, Middle Stone Age and Iron Age periods,” the department said.

Animal fossils at the site include those of extinct sabre-toothed cats, giant porcupines and hyraxes. Pollen grains and indigenous crops were also fossilised in the valley. - Sapa

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