Look, I’ve been practising to pronounce that bloody word so I am going to use it at often as possible. Australopithecus Sediba. For those of you who don’t know what Australopithecus Sediba is, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australopithecus_sediba and here:http://www.maropeng.co.za/index.php/news/entry/the_story_of_the_australopithecus_sediba/ and see the photo’s below:

(The quality of the photo’s aren’t great because I took them on my crappy K850i, uploaded them directly to my photo blog and subsequently stole them back from there)

Hamish, a good friend of mine (THE Hamish, The One I thank for Fridays, THIF) messaged me on Friday wondering if I would like to go see Australopithecus Sediba that was, briefly, being exhibited at Maropeng, the official visitors centre of The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Since the Australopithecus Sediba fossils would only be on display for two weeks there, I don’t think there was much of a choice in the matter, we would go.

So today, Hamish, Hamish’s girlfriend Suzette, my wife and I went and had a browse through the exhibits at Maropeng, which includes a water ride, a history of earth (right back from 4.5 (ish) billion years until today), several science exhibits as well as an original fossil exhibit. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and I have a couple of observations.

The exhibits in general

I’ve been to more than a couple of science exhibits in several countries and I have to say, Maropeng is very well done. It’s definitely on par with world facilities of a similar nature, possibly better than most. The exhibits themselves are interesting and visually appealing (and they all worked), the walk trough is logical, makes sense and I think kids would enjoy the process as much as us adults did. It’s clean and it also doesn’t take all day (which I believe is a bonus for people with short attention spans or persons afflicted with screaming smaller versions of themselves).

The science

The displays and explanations are put in such a way that a five-year old can understand it. Seriously. I may be a bit biased, but to be brutally honest, if you walk through Maropeng and still come out the other side believing that the earth was created 10,000 years ago, humanity in-tact and at the pinnacle of creation, then you, sir, are a knave and a fool.

The exhibits are clear enough that a casual walk through will be interesting but there is also enough information to satisfy people with an interest beyond casual. The topics are well explained from several angles and on a whole, I think the science portrayed there is of a high standard.

What I didn’t see

There were no humans and dinosaurs in the same space. There were no Adams or Eves (with or without belly buttons, how we laughed). No exhibits about 600 year old men building floating zoos big enough for a million or two species (we laughed some more). There were no fairy tales of ghosts in bushes or vindictive columns of cloud, no unicorns or flying horses (we weren’t sure about the unicorns, since ThinkGeek sells canned unicorn meat). Sadly, there were also no llamas.

But what about ‘transitional fossils’?

Get off your ever increasingly large, dough like behind and go and look at the damn fossils. They are there. They are many and wishing them away isn’t going to make them any less real.

And Australopithecus Sediba?

I wish I could say it was a ‘religious experience’ but it was not. The fossil is fascinating, beautiful and interesting and I am very happy it was found in what is currently my back yard. It may be one of the most important palaeoanthropological finds ever but unless you’re actually a  palaeoanthropologist, it may not be as awe-inspiring as one would like it to be. I am happy though that I took the time to go see it in person, it and the rest of the facility certainly made it worth the time and money.

While walking through the exhibits, the four of use mused and came to the following conclusions:

1. One would have to make an awfully large number of apologies to be able to discard and ignore the mountain of evidence for macro evolution that exists there for anybody to see (and Maropeng is hardly the largest facility of its kind)

2. We would love to actually go and see the ‘Creation Museum’ for some additional edutainmusement™

3. We were very sorry that we missed visiting the facility mentioned in point 2 with PZ Myers

4. Evolution is true, no amount of foot stamping and closed-eye wishing is going to change that fact

5. We are overjoyed at the number of people at the facility and even happier at the number of children we saw there.

If you have the opportunity to visit Maropeng, do it, it is worth the effort.

A female llama will only produce about 60 ml of milk at a time when she gives milk.