Living in Johannesburg has its perks. We have Maropeng up the road (about a 45 minute drive away) and since HomoNaledi was discovered, we have been threatening to go. The original fossils are currently on exhibition. The exhibition ends on 18 October 2015, so we went just in time.
What a fascinating experience. I had never been to Maropeng before. To be honest, I didn’t think a trip was worth it. The building is very unassuming. Its MUCH bigger than it looks. The old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is definitely apt here.
The Maropeng exhibition is housed in the Tumulus building, which combines cutting edge architecture with clever use of space – all within strict environmental guidelines
When we entered the building, we read quite a bit of information about Charles Darwin, his colleagues and his theory of evolution and how it evolved, pardon the pun.
After spending quite a bit of time in that one installation, we made our way down a tunnel and read about earths history, from modern times, to the big bang.
At the bottom of that tunnel, we took a boat ride:
The boat adventure starts at the present and continues on a trip back through time, retracing the various stages of the creation of our earth. Snow-making and ice-producing machines give voyagers an indication of what the most recent ice age may have been like. The journey goes back further into time, when the world was submerged in water, and beyond that to the formation of the earth’s crust and the shifting of the tectonic plates.
Finally the beginning is reached, when the earth was a fiery ball of molten rock, and the ride ends dramatically in a simulated ‘black hole’. Scientists theorise that our world came into existence as a result of the collapse of the first star, creating a ‘black hole’ with a powerful gravitational pull. The force of the explosion created momentum amongst some of the dust, rocks and gas produced in the ‘Big Bang’ 14-billion years ago. These particles were drawn into the centre of the ‘black hole’, gradually amassing into matter which eventually created the earth.
Once we entered the main exhibition area, we saw a few fascinating interactive tables for the children to explore. This particular table, pictured below, is a sequencing game showing the evolution of plants, animals, humans, etc. Once you have the sequence correct, it lights up. We must have spent upwards of an hour on this table alone.
We walked through the rest of the homonid exhibition and made our way to the main, original fossil, exhibition where we met HomoNaledi!
They had various other homonid fossils on exhibition, including a comparison exhibit.
Once we left, we found a black board where you can leave your name in chalk. It wouldn’t be a field trip, without leaving our mark.
I highly recommend this facility for people of any age. They have a disabled/stroller area that takes you past the boat ride (but you can still go in at various parts to see the different parts of the boat ride). My children loved it! You can find printable resources for children/students HERE
Keep an eye out for part 2 of our Cradle of Humankind field trip coming later this week!