North West Province DestinationsTaung, Bophirima Region
In the southern stretches of the North West Province is a little town called Taung. Directly translated from Tswana, it means place of the lion, but really the discovery of a very famous fossil site, where the skull of a child was blasted out of an ancient cave during quarry operations at lime works just outside the village of Taung, eclipsed this translation. Today, mention Taung and the child skull comes to mind.
The Taung site is something of an enigma. Not only is it the most southern hominid site discovered in Africa, but it is the only hominid fossil site deposited in tufa caves, the smallest of any hominid-bearing caves in southern Africa. These caves formed in a massive tufa flow that came off the dolomitic bedrock of the Kalahari escarpment.
The discovery and scientific classification, by Raymond Dart, of the Taung skull as one belonging to an early hominid “Australopithecus africanus”, was the reason for much heated discussion. Effectively his claim advanced the evidence of early man’s existence by over a million years. The Taung child was the first hominid discovered in Africa, supporting Charles Darwin’s concepts that African apes are the closest living relatives of humans. The skull is now housed at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
The Buxton quarry, where the skull was discovered, is no longer mined and is said to be a place of great serenity and peace, certainly worth the detour, particularly as it is now a popular hiking and picnic spot.