They lived more than two million years ago and almost 700 000 years apart. They belonged to the same species and they have finally been reunited at Maropeng a'Africa at the Cradle of Humankind.

In what academics have described as an internationally historic event, the skull of Mrs … Mr … or Ms Ples (the gender has not been agreed on) and the Taung child will be on view for the first time to the public at the new exhibition centre.

Ples is believed to be about two million years old and the four-year-old child about 2,7-million years old. Ples's skull has been around the world and examined by many palaeontologists.

Dr Francis Thackeray, curator of the Transvaal Museum, said on Tuesday it was "a rare occasion that the public will get to see the original fossil".

The skull will be on display until May 14, together with 50 fossils called the Original Fossil Display.

The gender of Ples has caused controversy since it was found in 1947 by Robert Broom, who dug it up illegally without the required permits. Thackeray said Broom declared it to be Plesianthropus transvaalensis - hence the name Mrs Ples.

"However, she was later identified as belonging to Australopithecus Africanus, a distant relative of humankind. She died in the Cradle of Humankind area.

"She could almost walk upright but had a smaller brain, similar to that of a modern chimpanzee. This discovery highlighted the possibility that humankind was born in Africa - something many were sceptical about at the time. Because of her small bones and small dental sockets, it was believed that she was female," added Thackeray.

Maropeng will be open at the weekend from 9am to 5pm for those who would like to view Ples.