Before Darwin[ edit ] The word homo, the name of the biological genus to which humans belong, is Latin for "human".
Australopithecus africanus -- The word "Australopithecus" means "southern ape. Raymond Dart, professor of anatomy at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, was the first to study these fossils. In at Taung in South Africa, Dart discovered a fossil skull consisting of a full face, teeth and jaws, and an endocranial cast of the brain.
The brain size was cc. Its age is currently felt to be around two to three million years old. Dart was convinced that some teeth were man-like and thus concluded a transition between apes and man.
His opinions on the matter of this particular skull were largely scorned by the scientists of this time who considered it nothing more than a young chimpanzee now considered to be about three years of age. The skull was soon known derisively as "Dart's baby.
With Piltdown Man's human cranium and apelike jaw, it was hard to reconcile it to the Taung Child. Although Dart gave up fossil hunting for some time, all was not lost. Years after the discovery of the "Taungs child", as it is known today, Dart and Broom found other Australopithecines at Kromdraii, Swartkrans and Makapansgat.
These finds of similar creatures seemed to vindicate Dart and Broom, and the scientific community again accepted their finds as they do today.
These new fossil Australopithecines seemed to show two parallel lines of development, one being a small "gracile" slender type and the other a larger "robust" type. Much controversy has existed regarding these types and some investigators, including Richard Leakey, have concluded that they represent merely the male and female of the same species while others say the gracile form, which is believed to be older, evolved into the robust form.
Today these animals are known as Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus robustus respectively. The latter is clearly heavier, has more massive jaws, and a pronounced sagital crest.
All these traits are typical of sexual dimorphism in male apes. What is also felt to be a more human trait is that foramen magnum the opening in the skull above the attachment of the spinal column in Australopithecines seems to be placed in an intermediate forward position between that of modern apes and man.
Although not as far forward as in man, this more forward position is felt to indicate a more upright posture for the Australopithecines. The australopithecines have often been found in association with other animals, such as baboons, and often show evidence of bashed-in skulls.
Tools in the form of clubs, knives, and choppers have been found in association, as well as evidence of fire. It might be attractive to assume that the Australopithecines had been the hunters and butchers except that some of their skulls were broken in as well.
Were they then the hunters or the hunted? An American journalist met up with Dart who convinced him that the Australopithecines were actually hunting one another.Marlene Martinez Anthropology May 17, Zoo Assignment Monkeys and humans have been compared for years, we have all heard the expression “Monkey see, Monkey do”.
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