Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, Pretoria

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The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, formerly the Transvaal Museum, is a natural history museum situated in Pretoria, South Africa. It is located on Paul Kruger Street, between Visagie and Minnaar Streets, opposite the Pretoria City Hall. Wikipedia

 

 

 

The DITSONG: National Museum of Natural History is the only natural history museum in Gauteng and possibly one of the largest in South Africa. It is the only institute in South Africa that offers the local and international visitors an opportunity to view the various collections, including original fossil material usually denied to the public.

This plaque, which can be found outside the front entrance designates the  building, built in 1892, as a National Monument.

 

 

Everyone is welcome and for a small fee can spent as long as they wish wandering through the various exhibits.

Although visitors can visit the exhibits by themselves, there are guides available for a small additional fee.

 

 

It looks like the door handles are polished on a regular basis.

 

 

 

This is the main entrance together with the ticket office(on the left), the turnstiles (in the middle) and a security desk on the right.

The staff memebers on duty when my wife and I recently visited were most helpful and welcoming. We got there at around 09h30 on a Sunday and we seemed to be the only ones in the building, aside from the staff. By the time we left several hours later, the museum was starting to fill up and was getting noisy.

 

 

This imposing pachyderm is the first exhibit that arriving visitors get to see as they pay their entrance fees. Hidden between this females’ legs is a youngster that can just be seen in outline in this image.

 

 

 

Mrs. Ples is the popular nickname for the most complete skull of an Australopithecus africanusever found in South Africa. Many Australopithecus fossils have been found near Sterkfontein, about 40 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, in a region now known as the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.  The skull is currently on display to the public at the museum.

 

 

The Ditsong Museum of Natural History acts as the custodian and documentation centre of South Africa’s natural heritage. The Museum’s collections and exhibits include hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and associated fauna, including Mrs Ples, the nickname attributed to a fossil skull believed to represent a distant relative of all humankind.

 

 

 

Mrs. Ples was discovered by Robert Broom and John T. Robinson on April 18, 1947. Because of Broom’s use of dynamite and pickaxe while excavating, Mrs. Ples’s skull was blown into pieces and some fragments are missing. Nonetheless, Mrs./Mr. Ples is one of the most “perfect” pre-human skulls ever found.

I wonder if he would have been allowed to use the ‘dynamite and pickaxe’ method of excavation today? I suppose we are lucky that he did not blow the skull to smithereens, thus leaving future generations with no evidence of our early ancestors.

The nickname “Mrs. Ples” was coined by Broom’s young co-workers. It derives from the scientific name Plesianthropus transvaalensis (near-man from the Transvaal), that Broom initially gave the skull, later subsumed (synonymized) into the species Australopithecus africanus. In scientific publications the specimen is referred to by its catalogue number, STS 5.

 

 

 

Up a dark and imposing staircase and into the Geoscience Centre which is of interest to both professional geologists and amateur rock collectors.

There are steps on either side that take visitors to mezzanine floor entrances to both the Genesis and Mammal Halls.

 

 

 

This is the well lit Geoscience Centre where visitors can see a range of minerals, crystals, crystals and gemstones from different parts of the world, including a piece of moon rock.

I did find the small fragment of moon rock that is on display, but a letter, from the President of the USA at the time, mentions a flag that was nowhere to be seen.

 

 

 

I thought I had ‘discovered’ colour coordinated bathrooms, until I noticed that the sign on the door said ‘LADIES’.

There is something about tiles in the bathrooms of old buildings that intrigues me. Not a plain white tile to be seen. And the workmanship is superb.

 

 

 

It was disconcerting to find a bull moose as part of the mammal exhibition, given that they are NOT found anywhere on the African continent. They are normally only found in Alaska, Canada and the northern U.S. (from North Dakota to northern New England, and from the north- ern Rockies south to Utah).

There were also a couple of bison that have never roamed the plains of Africa to the best of my knowledge.

FYI: The flap of skin under a moose’s chin is called a bell. Moose are also called rubber-nosed swamp donkeys. Moose calves can outrun a human by the time they’re five days old. A moose can kick in any direction with its front hooves.

 

 

 

However, if I thought that the moose and the bison were out of place, then THIS was most disconcerting. And why it should feature in what is clearly a hall filled with wild animals I do not know.

The hall where I found this is called Genesis of Life I and II: A journey of life on earth from singled celled organisms to amphibians in Genesis I  and a focus on the evolution of mammals and humans in part II. The only other humans on display being a diorama that features Robust ‘ape-men’ (Australopithecus robustus) in a stand-off with a leopard.

 

 

 

Looking down into the main hall from the mezzanine floor. I really likes the light fittings, which I assume are an addition to the building although in as early as 1889, Siemens & Halske was granted the concession to supply electricity to both Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Did you know? Kimberley was the first city to use public electricity in South Africa when it installed electric streetlights run off a coal fired power plant in 1882 to reduce crime at night.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This incident was from what my wife and I experienced during our visit. I have spoken to the management at the museum and it seems that this is an ongoing issue over which they, understandably, they have little control.

We arrived at the museum at around 09h30 on a Sunday morning and were immediately approached by someone who introduced himself as an ‘assistant parking guard’. He went on the say that neither we or our car would be safe if we left the car parked in the street in front of the museum entrance. He then asked me for R35.00 to make certain that all would be as we left it on our return. I said that I had no money and he then directed us around the corner to where the secure parking was. The uniformed parking guard let us in and feeling more secure, we left our car on the museum grounds while we entered via a staff entrance. Needless to say, the erstwhile ‘assistant’ was nowhere to be seen when we left some hours later.

That being said, their website DOES mention that there is secure parking that costs R10.00 but it does not mention where that parking can be found.

A second issue is the fact that although the pensioners rates were increased from R25.00 to R30.00 in April 2023, that increase does not reflect on the website.

 

 

 

The museum is open daily from 07:30 – 16:00, except on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

 

 

To find out more about what the museum offers, click on the logo above.

 

 

 

Check out the archived and current interviews… click on the image above.

 

 

 

 

 

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