Revised age estimates of Australopithecus‐bearing deposits at Sterkfontein, South Africa Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The Sterkfontein fossil site in South Africa has produced the largest concentration of early hominin fossils from a single locality. Recent reports suggest that Australopithecus from this site is found within a broad paleontological age of between 2.5-3.5 Ma (Partridge [2000] The Cenozoic of Southern Africa, Oxford: Oxford Monographs, p. 100-125; Partridge et al. [2000a], The Cenozoic of Southern Africa, Oxford: Oxford Monographs, p. 129-130; Kuman and Clarke [2000] J Hum Evol 38:827-847). Specifically, the hominin fossil commonly referred to as the "Little Foot" skeleton from Member 2, which is arguably the most complete early hominin skeleton yet discovered, has been magnetostratigraphically dated to 3.30-3.33 Ma (Partridge [2000] The Cenozoic of Southern Africa, Oxford: Oxford Monographs, p. 100-125; Partridge et al. [2000a], The Cenozoic of Southern Africa, Oxford: Oxford Monographs, p. 129-130). More recent claims suggest that hominin fossils from the Jacovec Cavern are even older, being dated to approximately 3.5 Ma. Our interpretation of the fauna, the archeometric results, and the magnetostratigraphy of Sterkfontein indicate that it is unlikely that any Members yet described from Sterkfontein are in excess of 3.04 Ma in age. We estimate that Member 2, including the Little Foot skeleton, is younger than 3.0 Ma, and that Member 4, previously dated to between 2.4-2.8 Ma, is more likely to fall between 1.5-2.5 Ma. Our results suggest that Australopithecus africanus should not be considered as a temporal contemporary of Australopithecus afarensis, Australopithecus bahrelghazali, and Kenyanthropus platyops.

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Berger, L. R., Lacruz, R., & De Ruiter, D. J.

citation count

  • 63

publication date

  • September 2002

publisher