Significance of Swartkrans

Since the mid-20th century, the site has provided the:Jason Heaton (left) and Travis Pickering (right) discussing Member 4 excavations. Photo courtesy of Henry Bunn.

  • Largest sample  (> 126 individuals) of Paranthropus robustus in the world

  • First evidence for the co-existence of two different hominid lineages

    • Homo erectus

    • Paranthropus (Australopithecus) robustus

  • First and earliest evidence for controlled use of fire found anywhere  c. 1 Ma

  • First and earliest evidence of tool use with non-stone material (i.e. bone tools) c. 1.7 Ma

In 1998, Swartkrans was designated as a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and is part of South Africa's Cradle of Humankind.

View of Swartkrans Hill, as viewed from nearby Sterkfontein Caves.

John Cruise (left) and Dusty van Rooyen (right) discussing the removal of portions of the Hanging Remnant.Swartkrans is owned by the University of the Witwatersrand and the SPRP scientists receive much appreciated logistical support from the university’s Institute of Human Evolution, directed by J. Francis Thackeray.  Additional support has been provided to the SPRP by African Explosives and John Cruise and Dusty van Rooyen.

Additionally, Swartkrans is an international collaboration with researchers from the University of Wisconsin (USA), Birmingham-Southern College (USA) and the University of Witwatersrand (RSA).  Excavations were re-initiated by Travis Pickering and C.K. "Bob" Brain in 2005. The Swartkrans Paleoanthropological Research Project (SPRP) has a close and helpful relationship with the long-term project at nearby Sterkfontein Cave, directed by Ronald Clarke, and is funded by grants to Pickering from the National Science Foundation (USA), the LSB Leakey Foundation (USA) and the Palaeontological Scientific Trust (South Africa).