Africa – The Cradle of Humankind

World-renowned archaeologist Professor Phillip Tobias once said that “Humanity was a gift from Africa to the World”. Many scholars believe Africa to be the birthplace of mankind and with the substantial archaeological findings in their favour the world tends to agree.

South Africa – Tour the Origins

South Africa is home to some three million years of prehistory and history, inherited from the ancient cultures which made the mountains and plains their home. This rich inheritance places the country among the few regions in the world where these footsteps towards the development of culture can be followed. If you are interested in the origins of mankind a trip to South Africa is highly recommended. There are a multitude of sites where remarkable discoveries have been made throughout the years and they are now open to members of the public. The tours of these sites allow enthusiasts a glimpse into their own origins.

Until 1924 the world had focussed its attention on Asia in their quest for the origins of mankind. Professor Raymond Dart revolutionised this way of thinking when he discovered the skull of a six year old child in a block of rock sent to him from the town of Taung in South Africa’s North West province. The skull displayed both ape-like and human-like anatomical features and was named Australopithecus africanus. The skull is regarded amongst the 20 most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th century. Once the skull had been discovered scientists turned their attention to South Africa and a huge number of archaeological sites were found. The Taung Heritage Site is now one of South Africa’s top tourist destinations, a monument has been built to commemorate the discovery and an old mine tunnel has been reopened for visitors to explore. The Blue Pools are another feature that attract visitors to the Heritage Site. Discovered after a dynamite explosion in a mountain!

in which lime was being mined the pools are surrounded by caves and streams and are a popular site for hiking, abseiling, picnicking and barbequing.

Another remarkable find was made in 1947 by Dr Robert Broom, who discovered a perfectly preserved adult Australopithecus africanus cranium, belonging to the 2, 5-million-year-old “Mrs Ples”, at Sterkfontein. Several hundred discoveries followed, some dating back 3, 5 million years and the Sterkfontein site earned its name – The Cradle of Humankind. Some of the cradles findings include 500 skull, jaw, teeth and skeletal fossils of early hominids, thousands of other animal fossils, over 300 fragments of fossils wood, and over 9,000 stone tools. The Cradle of Humankind [http://www.africanoutposts.co.za/index.q] is a World Heritage Site and certain areas are open to the public. There are also various exhibitions, guided tours and lectures from reputed archaeologists. The Cradle restaurant is the perfect day of exploration and enlightenment. This beautiful restaurant built from stone, steel and glass opens up on three sides with a magnificent view of the African!

landscape.

South Africa’s Limpopo province is a land of myths and legends – the area has a rich cultural history and there are many archaeological sites. The Makapans Cave and nearby archaeological and fossil sites are situated on the farm Makapansgat, 19 km north of Mokopane. It was here in 1948 that the fossil remains of Australopithecus africanus, a 3, 5 million-year-old ape-man, were found by Raymond Dart. The Makapans Valley, a National Heritage site and currently in line for World Heritage Status, contains an extensive and complete record of hominid occupation. The Makapan caves are full of fossils and archaeological remains and you can take a tour of the caves and area.

Long before Bartholomew Dias rounded the Cape in 1488 the art of working gold was being mastered by Bantu-speaking people living near the Limpopo River. Recently gold objects and other exciting finds have been made here. Also near the Limpopo River, Thulamela in the Kruger National Park was home to a large stone-walled settlement. A large section of the ancient stone walling has been restored to its former glory and the National Parks Board is working on plans to make this bewitching site a tourism destination in the northern part of the Kruger National Park. Not only can you marvel at the sites archaeological finds but you can also enjoy spending time in one of the worlds most acclaimed game reserves.

In more recent years South Africa has once again captured the world’s attention with the discoveries of human remains at the Klasies River Caves along the Eastern Cape coast. Human remains with anatomically modern features have been found, dating well over 100 000 years old. If these dates are correct, then it is in Southern Africa that the world’s oldest remains of our own species, Homo sapiens, have been found – some 60 000 years before their arrival in Europe and Asia.

Apart from all of the human remains discovered in South Africa throughout the years the treasure trove of art. South Africa has the greatest collection of Stone Age paintings and engravings in the world. The San have left us a priceless and unique artistic legacy.

Robert Ardry wrote that, “Humanity evolved beneath the canopy of African skies on the immense card table of the African Savannah”. Exploring this evolution is a magnificent way to gain insight into the origin of mankind. Not only will you be enlightened on your tour of South Africa’s archaeological treasures you will also get to experience this beautiful countries modern day treasures.

Devon’s Rich Historic Landmarks

The county of Devon boasts a history and heritage just as rich as its landscapes and wildlife. As a legacy of its history Devon has been left with some wonderful landmarks that are just waiting to be explored during a holiday in Devon.

The oldest of Devon’s landmarks dates back an amazing 400 millions years. Kents Caverns is one of the most important cave systems in the whole of the UK and has been home to eight different native populations that have lived in England over thousands and thousands of years. The caves are protected as they are the most important prehistoric cave dwellings in the country and are known across the world for their record of prehistoric people living in Europe. A tour of the caves offers a fascinating insight in to how ancient humans lived as well as the chance to see rock formations that have been hundreds of millions of years in the making.

Exeter Cathedral is one of the most beautiful cathedrals found in the South West. The cathedral lies in the heart of the city of Exeter and is dedicated to St. Peter. The cathedral was founded in 1050 and the building we see today was completed in the early 1400’s. It is home to the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England, other features include the Astronomical Clock, the 14th century Minstrels gallery, the bishop’s throne and the great east window.

DartmouthCastlehas to be one of the prettiest fortresses in the country. For over 600 years, the castle has sat on a picturesque spot at the entrance to the Dart Estuary and the port of Dartmouth. The castle saw action in the Civil War and continued to be used for military use right up till the Second World War. The well persevered fort has plenty of passages, rooms and fortifications to explore, displays throughout the castle halls bring 600 years of history to life. Climb to the top of the gun tower, the first tower built in Britain to hold heavy ship sinking guns, and see how the estuary could be blocked to enemy ships using a heavy chain, it will also offer some gorgeous views of the estuary.

Why Rajasthan Tour Must Be on Your Wish-List Before You Die?

Being the largest state of India area-wise, Rajasthan not only boasts of varied topography in the form of desert, hills, forest etc but also a rich culture mixed with different traditions and customs which is quite unique to this state. What makes Rajasthan apart from other states is also the continuing royal legacy of erstwhile Rajas and Maharajas in the State and most of the families living the same royal lifestyle yet. Each city has an associated interesting history of myths and legends which are still remembered and told to tourists. The exquisite architectural monuments including arching giant forts and large palaces, exotic wildlife and a range of fairs also distinguish it from other states in more profound ways.

Thus ten reasons why it compels to visit this beautiful and colorful state of Rajasthan North India are as follows:

1. Architecture: Wonderful forts and palaces like City Palace, Lake Palace, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mehrangarh Fort, Junagarh Fort, Golden Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Amber Fort, Neemrana Fort, Castle Mandawa Fort, etc. are some of the grand heritage sites. Few of them like Umaid Bhawan Palace, Neemrana Fort & Palace are converted to hotels which offer Royal hospitality and luxury.

2. Rich Folk Culture: Although every city in the state owes to itself different and unique customs, traditions, habits etc, the whole experience of witnessing folk dance and listening to folk music is delight to eyes and ears as both are performed in melody encompassing use of local musical instruments and colorful woven costumes.

3. Wildlife and Bird Sanctuaries: Rajasthan is abode to various endangered and exotic species of animals and birds. Three of India’s major wildlife and bird sanctuaries; Ranthambore National Park, a tiger reserve, Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary where antelopes, leopard, tigers, gazelles, waterfowls etc are usually seen and Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary which welcomes migratory birds from abroad every year are animal lover’s delight. Some of them include safari rides too for adventurous tourists.

4. Fairs & Festivals: Various theme based fairs and festivals are an important part of Rajasthan culture which invite spectators from all over country in huge numbers. The most popular one is the Pushkar Fair where camel racing, cattle fair, moustache competition, etc are the major attraction.Camel dance competitions are also held. Other fairs include Marwar Festival, Desert festival, Baneshwar Fair, Elephant festival etc which depict the true culture of Rajasthan.

5. Excellent textiles, handicrafts, gemstones: Rajasthan is unique to various techniques of art forms on fabric, wood and marble which are decorated with finesse depicting the rich tradition of the state. Meenakari, enameled silver and gold jewelry, hand block printing, zari work on textiles and embroidered jutis etc are quite beautiful and colorful.

6. Temples: Dilwara temples, Brahma temple in Pushkar, Birla temples etc are known for their great architectural magnificence and distinct style of their structure. They also attract pilgrims from far and wide.

7. Sand dunes: Major portion of Rajasthan is covered with sand dunes of Thar desert which offers picturesque sight of different shapes of dunes at different times and location.

8. Food: The tour to Rajasthan is incomplete without savoring some of the mouth watering cuisines such as dal-bati, besan-chakki, churma, jhajariya, gevar, balusahi, tarfini, raabdi, bail-gatte. The most interesting fact of Rajasthani dishes is that they are mostly cooked in pure ghee leaving wonderful aroma after you finish the food. In cities like Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner, food is prepared with minimum water and more of milk and buttermilk are used instead. Mewa Kachori of Jodhpur, Dil jani of Udaipur, Malpuas of Pushkar, Ghevar and Mishri Mawa of Jaipur and Sohan Halwa of Ajmer are also some memorable food items.

9. Adventure sports: Being the oldest mountain ranges in India, Aravalli ranges are the best place for trekking and other adventurous activities because these are bounded by dense forests, lakes, meadows etc. Mount Abu, the only hill station in Rajasthan is also nestled in Aravallis which is a popular tourist destination.

10. Lakes: Udaipur is also known as city of lakes as many beautiful lakes like Lake Pichola, Fateh Sagar Lake, Jaisamand Lake, Rajsamand Lake, Doodh Talai, Udai Sagar Lake, etc are situated here and surrounded by sprawling gardens making the landscape beautiful.