Meet Australopithecus africanus

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This station has several casts of remains attributed to the species, Australopithecus africanus. This was the first australopithecine species discovered, and for many years was the earliest known species of hominids. In another station you can see the morphology of the pelvis of A. africanus. In this station, you’ll see some crania and mandibles.

The fossils come from two sites in South Africa: Sterkfontein, which dates to around 2.6 million years ago, and Makapansgat, which is a bit older, around 2.8 million years old.

What to do: Take some time to become familiar with the fossils.

  • Several of them have teeth. Are they all adult or are some juveniles?
  • Seriate the dentitions in order from largest to smallest. What do you make of the differences in molar dimensions?
  • Look at the skulls from behind. How would you describe the shape of the outline of the skull from this view?