Posted by: Alex MacGregor | February 23, 2010

Around Joburg

After our awesome safari experience, we were able to make a couple great day trips around the Johannesburg area with Karen’s help.

First, we went to the Cradle of Humankind, an archeological site.

The tour includes what appears to be an impressive set of caves, discovered (and exploited) by miners during Johannesburg’s gold rush era. The cave shows lots of damage from the early miners.

But the real importance of this particular cave lies in the gaps and openings to the surface.

As various lifeforms–especially prehumans–evolved in Africa, certain ones would by chance fall into holes just like this one, where they would die. Conditions happened to be just right for fossilization to occur, making this a perfect sort of time capsule for prehumans. One such prehuman is completely intact, making it an unprecedented waypoint for figuring out how the process of human evolution occured.

Plus, the museum included all sorts of things you’d probably not see displayed so boldly in the States!

We also went on a Soweto Township tour.

Soweto (an acronym for Southwest Township) is an area of the city used by the apartheid government to relocate blacks from Johannesburg’s city center. The township is still a very important cultural force in South Africa, including millions of people of various economic levels and a fair amount of South Africa’s political elite.

But the area still remains largely poor. Surrounding the organized township areas (most of which were build initially by the apartheid government and have been formally owned by the inhabitants since the 1990s) are informal settlements.

In addition to the modern dynamics of the area, the tour also went in depth into the history of the neighborhood. The area was home to the likes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In 1976, Soweto became famous when students rebelled against Afrikaans language school instruction, provoking the government to use violence against the unarmed teenagers and inciting riots across the country and that marked the beginning of the end of apartheid.

The cooling tower on the right has been painted to tell the story of Soweto.


  1. I’d suggest not coming home with a Che t-shirt?

  2. Looks like a great trip!

  3. I like the posters. the ban animal testing and the golbe/empire one. But the GREATEST one is the one with the epic pitcure of the dude’s face. I dont know who he is, but I want that poster.

  4. I’m going to have to disagree with your mom (unless that’s a different Mary) and say please come home with at least 3 Che t-shirts. One for you, one for Alex, and one for me. Viva la revolucion! (is that what he says?)

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