Hominin Postcranial Remains from Sterkfontein, South Africa, 1936-1995

ISBN : 9780197507667

Bernhard Zipfel; Brian G. Richmond; Carol V. Ward
408 Pages
216 x 279 mm
Pub date
Apr 2020
Human Evolution Series
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The 1924 African discovery of an early hominin child's skull, referred to as Australopithecus africanus by Raymond Dart, was a major event in the history of paleoanthropology. This provided the first evidence of early hominins in Africa and overturned conventional ideas about human evolution. Subsequent discoveries of A. africanus fossils, notably from cave deposits at Sterkfontein, yielded the first evidence that early hominins were habitual bipeds. Fifty years after this, the discovered wealth of fossil evidence in eastern Africa of the slightly older and craniodentally more primitive taxon, A. afarensis, catalyzed debates about the origin and evolution of human gait and the phylogentic relationships among early hominins. This formed the main basis of our understanding of early hominin bipedality and paleobiology. Little attention has been paid to the variation among species in postcranial anatomy and locomotion, although intriguing hints are beginning to appear in the literature. Did multiple varieties of bipedality evolve? Did australopith species differ in positional or manipulative abilities, body proportions, or patterns of sexual dimorphism? These are critical questions for understanding the evolution of australopiths and hominin locomotion.

In this book, Bernhard Zipfel, Brian Richmond, Carol Ward, and the most knowledgeable scholars in their respective fields provide groundbreaking accounts for each postcranial fossil and expert examinations into the background of each fossil. The chapters include standardized high-quality photographs and anatomical descriptions to allow readers to read the book entirely or learn by comparing features across chapters. Hominin Postcranial Remains from Sterkfontein, South Africa, 1936-1995 is an evolutionary history of South African hominins, and it offers readers an orientation and introduction to the field. This is an important reference book for professional paleontologists, paleobiologists, anthropologists, geologists, students, and historians interested in human evolution.


i. Preface Carol V. Ward, Brian G. Richmond, Bernhard Zipfel

ii. Introductory remarks to the Workshop on Sterkfontein Postcranial Fossils Philip V. Tobias

Section 1: Temporal, geologic and historical context of the Sterkfontein hominins

1. A summary of the history of exploration at the Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site Francis Thackeray

2. The geological setting, cave formation, and stratigraphy of the fossil bearing deposits at Sterkfontein Caves Dominic Stratford

3. A new multidisciplinary age of 2.61 - 2.07 Ma for the Sterkfontein Member 4 australopiths Robyn Pickering, Andy I.R. Herries

4. The alpha taxonomy of Australopithecus at Sterkfontein: the postcranial evidence Frederick E. Grine

Section 2: Postcranial anatomy of the Sterkfontein hominins

5. The partial skeletons Carol V. Ward, Martin Haeusler, Bernhard Zipfel

6. Scapula, clavicle, and proximal humerus David J. Green

7. Distal humerus Michael R. Lague, Colin G. Menter

8. Ulna and radius Michelle S. M. Drapeau, Colin G. Menter

9. Carpals Matthew W. Tocheri, Job Kibii

10. Metacarpals & manual phalanges Tracy L. Kivell, Kelly Ostrofsky, Brian G. Richmond, Michelle Drapeau

11. Thoracolumbar vertebrae and ribs Carol V. Ward, Burt Rosenman, Bruce Latimer, Shahed Nalla

12. Pelvis Martin Haeusler, Christopher B. Ruff

13. Femur Jeremy M. Desilva, Mark Grabowski

14. Tibia and fibula Kristian J. Carlson, Bernhard Zipfel, William Jungers

15. Tarsals Tea Jashashvili, Kristian J. Carlson, Ronald J. Clarke

16. Metatarsals and pedal phalanges Bernhard Zipfel, Roshna Wunderlich

Section 3: Functional anatomy & biology

17. Long bone cross-sectional geometry Christopher B. Ruff, Ryan W. Higgins, Kristian J. Carlson

18. Limb proportions and positional behavior: Revisiting the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of locomotor reconstruction in Australopithecus africanus Adam D. Gordon, David J. Green, William L. Jungers, Brian G. Richmond

19. Summary and Synthesis Carol V. Ward, Bernhard Zipfel

Section 4: Appendices

Appendix I - Table of specimens, locus (grid and depth, identification and date of discovery).

Appendix II - Figure 1. Other lower limb, humeral and radial sections

Figure 2. Other ulna sections

Table 1. Cross-sectional properties of all sections.

Appendix III - Fossil sample used in studies presented in Chapter 18.

Appendix IV - Extant sample used in studies presented in Chapter 18.

Appendix V - Measurement definitions used in studies presented in Chapter 18.

About the author: 

Bernhard Zipfel is University Curator of Fossil and Rock Collections at the Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand. Brian G. Richmond is a Senior Data Scientist for Product Intelligence at Aura Health. Richmond was Associate Professor of Anthropology, Anatomy, and Regenerative Biology at George Washington University for twelve years, and he previously held the position of Senior Scientist at the American Museum of Natural History. Carol V. Ward is Curators' Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and Adjunct Professor in the University of Missouri Department of Anthropology.

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