Plovers Lake Cave

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Plovers Lake Cave (25 58' 39"S, 27 46' 36"E) is a fossil-bearing breccia filled cavity located about 4km Southeast of the well known South African hominid-bearing sites of Sterkfontein and Kromdraai and about 36km Northwest of the City of Johannesburg, South Africa.

History of Investigations

While the site has been known since the 1950's excavations were only begun several decades later. Plovers Lake has two main periods of excavation. The first was conducted in the late 1980's and early 1990's by C.K. "Bob" Brain and Francis Thackeray of the then Transvaal Museum (now known as the Northern Flagship Institute) in what is known as the "Outer Deposits", and the second by Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersand and Steve Churchill of Duke University in 2000 - 2004 in the "Inner Deposits"[1].

Recovered Fossils

Many thousands of fossils were found by both teams. In the Outer Deposits, Brain and Thakeray discovered a very fine fossil baboon that had survived a leopard or saber-toothed cat attack as was evidenced by a healed wound over the eye. They also discovered many other animals and some indeterminate stone tools. No Hominid fossils were discovered.

Berger and Churchill worked in the Inner Deposits and quickly discovered that this site was younger than the Outer Deposits and contained the remains of Middle Stone Aged occupation by humans. They recovered over 25,000 fossil remains, many hundreds of tools including knives and spear points and fragmentary hominid remains dated to around 70,000 years ago]][2].


Plovers Lake is a large series of deposits formed along huge fissures in a checkerboard pattern. The Outer Deposit is a breccia-filled dolomitic caves that has been de-roofed. The Inner Deposits are comprised of calcified and de-calcified breccias. These deposits have most of the roof intact and extend for several hundred meters. Most of the site has not been excavated.

age of the deposits

The Outer Deposits have been dated to around 1.0 million years old based on the size of porcupines recovered. The Inner Deposits have been dated to greater than 70,000 years using radiometric techniques[2].


  1. Hilton Barber, B. and Berger, L.R. (2001). Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind. Struik. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Berger et al. (2003). Proceedings of the 72nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. AJPA.