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New Fossils Found in South Africa’s Sterkfontein Caves

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sterkfontein Caves fossils JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA—A chamber in South Africa’s Sterkfontein Caves has yielded four early hominin fossils that can be associated with stone tools dating to more than two million years ago. Two of these fossils, a finger bone and a tooth, are new to scientists. The finger bone is large and curved, but lacks the strong muscle attachments expected for a hominin living in trees. “The finger is similar in shape to the partial specimen from Olduvai Gorge that has been called Homo habilis, but is much larger. Overall, this specimen is unique in the South African plio-pleistocene fossil hominin record and deserves more studies,” Dominic Stratford of the University of the Witwatersrand said in a press release. The tooth is a relatively small, adult first molar resembling the teeth of Homo habilis and perhaps Homo naledi, discovered in 2013 in Rising Star Cave. “The specimens are exciting not only because they are associated with early stone tools, but also because they possess a mixture of intriguing features that raise many more questions than they give answers,” Stratford said. For more on Homo naledi, go to "A New Human Relative."

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