The caves were discovered in 1886, when an Italian prospector was looking for gold during the Gold Rush. He only found limestone and not long after they started mining the limestone to use in the processing of gold. In the mining process they unearthed fossils, which then attracted the interest of scientists. The amazing thing is that 40% of all the world's human ancestor fossils have been found in the area. The most famous one is probably “Mrs Ples” (now believed to be Mister Ples!) in 1947, a well preserved fossil skull estimated to be around 2.3 million years old.
We also learned about a more recent discovery. It was only in 1997 that “Little Foot”, an almost complete hominid skeleton from about 3.5 million years ago, was discovered. On the tour they show you were scientists are currently still excavating. They have been at it with their small brushes and drills for 14 years and are still not sure when they will complete the extraction. Once they do, “Little Foot” will be amongst the most significant palaeoanthropological finds ever made around the world. Here, in our own city!
You can read more about the caves here.
Image credits: All photography by me