Makapan's Cave

Makapan's Cave in the Limpopo Province is one of many caves in the larger cave system in the Makapansgat Valley near the city of Mokopane. The caves, while not visually impressive like some of the other caves in South Africa, are well known for the extensive cultural and paleontological findings of the area.

The cave system that includes, amongst others, Makapan's Cave, have been the site of hominid inhabitation for millennia. To date, 35 different species of hominid have been found in the area and 12 different individuals. The Cave of Hearths is especially famous since it is one of the only two sites in the world that contain an unbroken sequence of artefacts from the earlier to later Stone Age. This suggests that hominids lived in the area for that entire time, slowly growing and evolving while in the area!

The dark caverns at Makapan's Cave holds many secrets

In the 17th century, the area once more came under human scrutiny when the Tswana of the area discovered the cave systems. The Cave of Gwasa is historic site that was reportedly used as a refuge during the various conflicts that ravaged the area. The Voortrekkers named the caves after the great chief Makapan in 1854 for the people that, at the time called the caves their home.

The caves can be visited if prior arrangements with local authorities have been made. The nearby Arend Dieperink Museum, however, is open to the public. This museum contains cultural and historical artefacts of the Sotho and Voortrekker people who lived in the area a scant hundred years ago. The museum is built in an old schoolhouse. The exhibitions in the museum portray the history of the town and the area. This history stretches from earliest Stone Age inhabitants to the recent present day.

The area surrounding Makapan's Cave, the Makapansgat Valley, is also worth a visit if you are in the area. The valley is a rich biosphere of sub-tropical fauna filled with a large diversity of animals. Amongst the animals that you are most likely to see are baboons and vervet monkeys during the day and bushbabies at night. These distant relatives of the original hominids who once called the area home are to many proof that this area was once a verdant valley ideally suited to being one of the cradles of life.

Makapan's Cave may not be one of the traditional locations in South Africa as far as the usual African attractions go, but it is a place well worth visiting. Situated only a few kilometres from the city of Mokopane, Makapan's Cave and the Makapansgat Valley can easily be reached for day trips and there is more than enough accommodation available in the area for people who want to stay a little longer.


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