1 August 2013
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has become the latest South African to add his footprint to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in Maropeng, outside Krugersdorp.
Addressing reporters after placing his foot in a wet concrete block on Wednesday, the Nobel Peace laureate said, with his trademark laughter: “I pray that it is also a step into a future where all people shall be united again by a sense of unity and ubuntu.
“There is no race which is superior to the other,” Tutu said. “All of us, including those who are in Europe, deep in our sense, we are all Africans. We belong to one family, which is the family of ubuntu.
“It is humbling to add my footprint, which is a footprint that takes us back into the past when all people were united by our common ancestor, who was made in the image of God. So as human beings, we belong together. If I want to be human, it can only be in relationship with other people because we are interdependent.”
Tutu also took a tour of both the Sterkfontein Caves and Maropeng.
Tutu ‘knew what science had yet to discover’
Professor Lee Berger, who is recognised the world over for having discovered an entirely new species of hominids in Maropeng in 2008, said that although Tutu was not a scientists, through his campaign against apartheid he had been clear that all human beings belonged to one family that came originally from the African continent.
“The Archbishop has been preaching ubuntu throughout the world from his early age, but as scientists we only discovered a while ago that all human beings originated in the African continent,” Berger said.
Berger gave Tutu a framed photo of the skeleton hand he discovered in Maropeng, which includes the fossil discovered by his son, Matthew, when he was nine years old.
By imprinting his foot in Maropeng, Tutu joined former president Thabo Mbeki and former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, who became the first to donate their footprints to the site in 2002.
President Jacob Zuma and Vaclav Klaus, the former president of the Czech Republic, have also left their imprints.
The handprint of Nelson Mandela completes the total of former national presidents currently represented in Maropeng.
Tutu’s other donations
In February 2010, an article was published revealing that Tutu had donated some of his own cells to the human genome project to be sequenced as an example of a Bantu individual, representing Sotho-Tswana and Nguni speakers.
The human genome project has demonstrated that all humans originated in Africa, and that the Khoi-San people of southern Africa are among the oldest surviving races and implicitly ancestral to all other human species.
It has suggested that the common female ancestor of all living humans (called “genetic Eve”) lived around 143 000 years ago, while the common male ancestor (“genetic Adam”) lived about 59 000 years ago.
This supports the so-called “Out of Africa II” hypothesis, for which there is also extensive palaeoanthropological evidence from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and elsewhere in Africa.
The footprints project represents support for the belief that our ancestors walked out of Africa to populate the entire planet.