The Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre was established in 2005 as part of a collaborative programme between the Evolutionary Studies Institute (previously called the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, the Albany Museum in Grahamstown and the Department of Science and Technology to set up palaeotourism and provide employment opportunities.
Situated in the heart of the Karoo, in the picturesque town of Nieu-Bethedsa, and home of the famous Owl House, the Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre tells the story of life in South Africa 253 million years ago during the Permian Period.
Visitors to the Fossil Exploration Centre can experience, on a short guided tour to nearby fossil-bearing rocks, the thrill of finding a fossil in the Karoo.
Step into the Fossil Exploration Centre and you enter a world without the plants and animals we know today. Life-sized models of prehistoric animals which once lived in the Karoo and paintings by the artist Gerhard Marx illustrate a time when there were no flowers or grasses, no mammals and no birds. Humans would only arrive on scene around 250 million years later. At this time the mammal ancestors (or therapsids) ruled the Earth.
The Centre also has displays on some of the latest and hottest fossil finds like Homo naledi and Australopihecus sediba. You can see a demonstration of the method that we use to extract fossils, a process called fossil preparation. Also children and the young at heart can dig in our fossil sand pit and climb on the reconstructions of the prehistoric beasts that live in the garden.