I’m sure if Mrs Ples’s husband had told her that in two million years’ time she’d be splashed across the covers of glossy magazines, she’d have told him to stop being an idiot and go out and kill something tasty for tea.
But having been unearthed in South Africa’s Sterkfontein Caves in 1947, she’s one of the reasons that a 47,000-hectare region 45 minutes from Johannesburg is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area is known as the Cradle of Humankind and Mrs Ples is the affectionate term for the most complete skull of an Australopithecus africanus (our ape-man ancestor) ever found in South Africa. Since this seminal find, the region has produced more than 600 hominid fossils, making it one of the world’s most bountiful paleontological sites.
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