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Hominin hand bone fossils from Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa (1998-2003 excavations).

Authors
  • Pickering, Travis Rayne1
  • Heaton, Jason L2
  • Clarke, Ron J3
  • Stratford, Dominic4
  • 1 Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, 53706, USA; Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersand, WITS, 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa; Plio-Pleistocene Palaeontology Section, Department of Vertebrates, Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (Transvaal Museum), Pretoria, South Africa. Electronic address: [email protected] , (South Africa)
  • 2 Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersand, WITS, 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa; Plio-Pleistocene Palaeontology Section, Department of Vertebrates, Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (Transvaal Museum), Pretoria, South Africa; Department of Biology, Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, AL, 35245, USA. , (South Africa)
  • 3 Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersand, WITS, 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa. , (South Africa)
  • 4 School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. , (South Africa)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of human evolution
Publication Date
May 01, 2018
Volume
118
Pages
89–102
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.02.014
PMID: 29606205
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

We describe eleven hominin metacarpals and phalanges recovered from Jacovec Cavern and Member 4 of the Sterkfontein Formation between 1998 and 2003. Collectively, the fossils date in excess of 2.0 Ma, and are probably attributable to Australopithecus africanus and/or Australopithecus prometheus. When combined with results of previous studies on Australopithecus postcranial functional morphology, the new data presented here suggest that at least some late Pliocene and/or early Pleistocene hominins from Sterkfontein were arboreally adept. This finding accords with the reconstruction of the site's >2.0 Ma catchment area as well-vegetated and containing significant woody components. In addition, most of the new specimens described here evince morphologies that indicate the hands from which they derived lacked complete modern humanlike manual dexterity, which is integral to the manufacture and use of intentionally shaped stone tools. The absence of lithic artifacts from both stratigraphic units from which the fossils were excavated is consistent with this conclusion. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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