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Johannesberg: Day 1

Friday, June 26, 2009

Today we visited the Sterkfontein caves where we first visited the cave museum which documented several interesting theories concerning the creation of the earth and the evolution of mankind through words and artifacts. We then proceeded to visit the caves which are extremely rich in fossil deposits. The original entrance to the cave was a small opening, that would easily have gone unnoticed causing unsuspecting tresspassers over the centuries to fall in and get trapped. Furthermore, the caves contained limestone and a combination of sediments known as breccia which together helped preserve these bodies and allowed for fossilization. The Sterkfontein caves were discovered when miners, blasting for limestone came across bones resembling those of humans at which point archaeologists began searching the caves. The caves yeilded many fossils amongst which the most significant were those of "littlefoot" and Mrs.Ples (some researchers believe that Ples may be a male so the fossil's gender is currently unknown. The caves also contained several amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Following our visit to the caves we continued on to join paleontologist Collin Mentor for a presentation about his research. Along the way to his digsite we saw several wild animals such as a zebra, rhinos, baboons etc. When we arrived we ate several delicious snacks and then were given a fascinating presentation about the evolution of humans through the observation of thier skulls. By documenting the progressive change in nost shape, teeth size, location of the intersection of the backbone and the skull as well as several other factors, paleontologists can discover at what period in history humans began walking and how we have taken the form we posess today. He also showed us samples of the vast number of bones he had found from the small but bountiful digsite that he had been excavating over the past 17 years and plans to continue with for the rest of his career. Towards the end of his presentation were forced to return to the hotel due to the rain but everyone throughly enjoyed the visit, and the wealth of knowledge and insights we had gained from Mr.Mentor.

In the evening we visited a local market which was a very different experience for every vendor was extremely interested (to say the least) in convincing us to pay thier shops a visit and dole out a good sum for thier goods although almost everyone had the same things to offer and was an experience I'm sure most of us won't forget. We then headed to the Lesadi cultural village in which we were introduced to the Zulu, Sotho, Xhosa, Pedi and a few more tribes and thier customs through a tour of thier villages. After the tour we saw traditional dances and participated in a few and Daniel bravely volunteered to fight as a Zulu warrior after the dances. We then ate and extravagant dinner including some exotic specialties such as ostrich, beans that thunder the buttocks, crocodile and other more recognizable dishes such as chicken, beef etc. The village was a great conclusion to a very educational, fun day.


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Essential Programs Details

Duration 12 days
When June 2nd - 13th, 2009
Focus Wildlife Research/Conservation
Political History