One Being (2006) by Deborah GlencrossOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
Explore the origins of humanity
Origins Centre museum is dedicated to exploring and celebrating the history of modern humankind through ancient and contemporary art.
Featured artwork: One Being by Deb Glencross
World Map (2006) by Walter OltmannOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
Your journey begins
Your journey begins with the origins of humanity, which starts in Africa, and then moves on to the origins of art and human innovation.
An aluminium wire sculpture by Walter Oltmann welcomes you home, to Africa.
Origins Centre Stone Tool display (2006) by Origins CentreOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
The origins of technology
Stone tools have been used for millions of years and show how hominin behaviour and cognitive abilities have changed through time.
Early hominin innovation and technological advancement is visible through changing stone tool technology.
Archaic Homo sapiens, Homo heidelbergensis skull casts (2006) by VariousOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
The Origins of Humans
Interactive fossil skull casts are used to show how the hominins have evolved over time. Evidence from around the globe is presented, but the earliest hominins date back over 7 million years in Africa.
replica engraved ostrich eggshell (2021) by Replica by Cedric PoggenpoelOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand and The French Institute of South Africa
Modern Humans and Innovation
South Africa has some of the earliest evidence of human cultural expression. Finds such as engraved ostrich eggshell, engraved ochre and marine shell beads suggest that symbolic expression and other innovative behaviours appeared in Africa 100 000 years ago.
Wartrail panel (2006) by Origins CentreOriginal Source: Origins Centre and the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
Southern African painted rock art
The earliest rock art of southern Africa was made by early hunter-gatherers, ancestors of the modern San. The brush-painted, polychrome art was made in rock shelters, and depicts the ritual and spiritual beliefs of the painters - capturing their real and spiritual worlds.
Engraved boulders and Axis Mundi (2006) by Russell ScottOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
The Spirit World of the San
For the San, the indigenous people of southern Africa, the activation of energy and contact with the spirit word is achieved through the communal trance dance.
Featured here is Russell Scott's installation, Axis Mundi.
In the foreground are original engraved boulders or petroglyphs.
The Rock Engraving Archive (2019) by San and Khoe (Khoi)Original Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
Rock Engraving Archive
The Origins Centre with the Rock Art Research Institute has the honour of protecting, conserving and displaying these engraved boulders. They were collected in the 1900s around South Africa. The engravings were made by ancestors of the San and Khoe.
Pecked rock engraving of an eland (2019) by San Hunter-GathererOriginal Source: Origins Centre and the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
Engraved (pecked) juvenile eland
This eland is only 17 cm in height, yet the folds and details of the skin of the eland are perfectly depicted.
Threads of Knowing (2006) by Tamar MasonOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
The museum combines ancient examples of innovation and art, with contemporary art installations as visualisations of the past.
Featured here are large, intricately embroidered panels, designed by Tamar Mason and made by herself and a collective of 80 craftswomen. The panels illustrate the history of the San in southern Africa.
Replica of the 'Train Shelter' in the Makgabeng (2006) by HananwaOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
Art of Protest
Beautiful, finger-painted rock art from the Makgabeng, Blouberg, Limpopo Province, South Africa. A life size replica of this panel can be seen at Origins Centre.
This protest art was painted by the Bahananwa (Xananwa), during the Maleboch war of 1894.
Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
In this powerful installation, the recorded oral histories of the San and Khoe (specifically the !Kung and |Xam), the indigenous peoples of southern Africa, are told, pictured and felt.
Installation by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm Payne
Art of the Ancestors
The art forms of Bantu-language groups in southern Africa are expressed in various ways and with different mediums.
The displays at Origins Centre show a variety of cultural items, as well as items and art associated with initiation and coming-of-age rituals.
Origins Centre Building (2006) by Origins CentreOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
Origins Centre Museum
Origins Centre is situated on the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) campus, in Braamfontein, Johannesburg South Africa.
We invite you to come and experience South African culture, art and hospitality and indulge in Africa's rich heritage.
The people of southern Africa
Rock Art Research Institute
Online exhibition Curator: Tammy Hodgskiss