Welcome to the blog site for our Elmira College travel class to South Africa. We will update this blog regularly with posts about our travels and experiences. We'll upload photos when we have the chance. Check back regularly to follow our adventures!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Drimolen and Pretoria

Another beautiful day in South Africa! We got an early start today, leaving the Africa Centre at 7am. We met our guide Marianne and proceeded to learn a bit more of South African history on our way to Drimolen, an amazing archaeological site that is part of the Cradle of Humankind. Researchers have been working here for at least the last eighty years unearthing the secrets of our hominid past.

After tea and biscotti, we learned more about this research as we toured the site. The fossils found at Drimolen and other nearby sites were formed as a result of sedimentation processes in vertical caves extending around 50 feet below the surface of the earth. The Austrolopithicus specimens found at the site date back approximately 1.6 million years. One of the most exciting finds at this particular site include the nearly intact skeletons of six newborn babies. This is rare because infants' bones are not fully formed, and thus rarely become fossilized. Of course, it's not all hominids here; there's plenty of microfauna as well (those are the bones of mice and other small rodents, preserved thanks to two million year old owl pellets).

After a lovely picnic lunch at the site, we proceeded to spend the afternoon in Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa. The main attraction here was the Vortrekker Monument. This monument memorializes the struggles of mainly Dutch South African farmers called Boers to subdue the local Zulu tribes and carve out a home for themselves, a process similar in all its bloodiness to the American pioneers as they moved further into the American West.

Our final stop for the day was the lovely Gardens of Remembrance, which is another memorial of sorts, this time to South Africans who gave their lives in the two world wars of the past century. A lovely end to a lovely day. On our way out of Pretoria, we drove by the home of Peter Kruger, the rough and tumble President of South Africa from the mid-1880s until the end of the Anlgo-Boer War and the American Embassy. Tomorrow: a day of driving as we make our way to the Venda territory in the far northeast corner of South Africa.

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