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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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Mpumalanga has clues to life's origins

By unknown | May 17, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Sakhile Mokoena

Sakhile Mokoena

Mpumalanga wants to restore its lost history by building a geological museum and bringing back some of the world's oldest fossils discovered in the province many years ago.

The chief executive of the newly formed Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism Agency, Solly Mosidi, said the fossils were being kept at the universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand for research.

"They are not gone for good, but have to be kept in a safe place. We are looking into the possibility of a geological museum to keep this important history," Mosidi said.

Craig Padayachee, Mpumalanga MEC for economic development and planning, said some of the oldest known rocks on Earth come from the province in mountains around Barberton, adjacent to Swaziland.

"Because the world's oldest fossils have been found in Mpumalanga, the area is a mecca for scientists who are researching new clues to the origin of life and are interested in how the Earth worked about 3,5billion years ago," Padayachee said during the Tourism Indaba in Durban at the weekend.

The Barberton mountains have been declared an international heritage site by the United Nations.

"In a real sense, Mpumalanga represents the cradle of life," Padayachee told the Indaba.

The fossils were discovered two years ago by Martin de Wet of Cape Town University's Africa Earth Observatory Network and Norwegian researchers.

De Wet told Sowetan yesterday that the Mpumalanga fossils were a sign of early stages of life about three billion years ago.

"This is very early, close to the time of the Earth's origin. At the moment they are the world's oldest known fossils," he said.

This means the fossils are a thousand times older than those found at the Cradle of Humankind at Maropeng, near Sterkfontein, which are only about two million years old.


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