Australopithecus from Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa


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March 2013


Since the discovery by Robert Broom of the first adult Australopithecus at Sterkfontein in 1936, a large quantity of fossil remains of this genus, consisting of crania, teeth and postcranial bones, has been excavated from those cave infills. They have generally been considered as belonging to one species, Australopithecus africanus, but there is now abundant proof that a second species is represented by many of the fossils. This second species should be classified as Australopithecus prometheus, the name given by Raymond Dart in 1948 to such fossils from Makapansgat (MLD 1 and MLD 2). A. prometheus is distinguished from A. africanus by having a more vertical occiput, larger, bulbous-cusped cheek teeth, a flatter face, lower frontal squame, and sagittal crest in the males. An almost complete skeleton of Australopithecus (StW 573) from an early deposit in the cave belongs to this second species, and for the first time this discovery made it possible to indisputably associate postcranial anatomy with specific cranial anatomy. It is also now possible to clearly distinguish males and females of each species, and to state with conviction that StW 53, a cranium excavated in 1976 and widely identified as Homo habilis, is in fact a male A. africanus, virtually the same as the TM 1511 cranium found by Broom 40 years earlier.


Australopithecus Prometheus, Homo Habilis, Makapansgat, Stw 53, Taxonomy, Taung

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