The caves are situated about 11km from Krugersdorp, on the Farm- 'Swartkrans'. They are believed to have been discovered in about 1896 or 1897, and were opened to visitors in about 1900. Previously, in 1895, geologist Dr D Draper had reported on the discovery of fossil bones in its vicinity. All though many years were to pass, before it was realised that Sterkfontein and neighbouring caves had been used by early human beings. Similar deposits were found thereafter on the neighbouring Farm of; 'Kromdraai', where a Palaeontological Reserve was declared in 1946.
Over the Years, this Area has become associated with the work of Dr Robert Broom, Professor Phillip Tobias and Dr Revel Mason, and since that time, excavations by other researchers, have made this one of the most important fields of scientific discovery in the World.
It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 23 November 1945. The surrounding Area has been declared a World Heritage Site and is referred to as 'The Cradle of Humankind'. A visitor's centre (Maropeng Visitors Centre) has been recently construction.
The Cradle of Humankind, is a Site of major significance to the Fossil Heritage of Humankind. This was a relatively small piece of Bushveld about 47,000 ha in size, the Cradle of Humankind earned its prestigious title, after a coincidence of seemingly unrelated factors exposed its treasure. It’s all about Dolomite, found in substantial quantities in the Sedimentary Rock, of the Cradle. Certainly, when it comes to the Cradle’s Caves and their ancient relics. (Amazingly without the presence of Dolomite, there would be no Cradle though.)
https://www.maropeng.co.za/news/entry/caving_in_a_brief_history_of_the_cradle_of_humankind- 1 November 2011- JULIA LLOYD