In 1896 an Italian gold prospector named Gulgimo Martinaglia found the entrance to a complex series of caves on Sterkfontein Farm near Krugersdorp in South Africa.The caves are now regarded as one of the most important prehistoric sites.
It is at this site that the famous Mrs Ples (Plesianthropus transvaalensis) was discovered by Dr Robert Broom who once described these caves as the anthropological treasure house of the world.
More recently Dr Ron Clark discovered the foot of an Ape-man. The nature of the bones indicate that the foot was articulated and suggests that the 'Ape-man' walked on two legs. The entire skeleton of this Ape-man is currently being removed from the caves - a process that is expected to take a few years.
The underground lake with crystal clear water is the only one of its kind in the republic.
Dr Robert Broom of the Transvaal Museum began excavations at the cave in 1936 and in 1947 discovered a well preserved skull of a species of early man known as Plesianthropus transvaalensis, who lived there about 2 million years ago. The skull became known as Mrs Ples.
The Sterkfontein Caves are found in a dolomite hill in the Isaac Edwin Stegman Nature Reserve,off the R563 about 10 km north-west of Krugersdorp,and the nearby Kromdraai Palaeontological Reserve are both National Monuments.
At a depth of 40 metres is a perfectly calm underground lake.Local African tribes regard it with awe,believing that the water has medicinal properties and can even cure blindness.Tribespeople hold ceremonies at the edge of the lake,during which water is carried away for treatment of the sick.
The caves are open Tuesdays to Sundays and on public holidays from 09h00 to 17h00.One hour guided tours start on the half hour from 09h00 to 16h00
There is a museum containing fossils found in the caves and a refreshment kiosk.