, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 103-109

First online:

Reappraisal of the taxonomic status of the cranium Stw 53 from the Plio/Pleistocene of Sterkfontein, in South Africa

  • Walter W. FergusonAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University

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A fossil skull, Stw 53, from the Plio/Pleistocene of Sterkfontein, in South Africa, has been referred toHomo habilis Leakey, Napier, andTobias, 1964. Reappraisal of its putative hominine affinity reveals a closer resemblance toAustralopithecus africanus Dart, 1925. The skull, as reconstructed, is too small forH. habilis; with no indication of brain expansion overA. africanus; has a facial angle outside the hominine range, but identical with that ofA. africanus; and whose teeth are not elongated but display buccolingual expansion. Although it was found in the same strata (Member 5) as stone tools, there is no causal connection. It has been dated faunistically at 2–1.5 my BP, but due to an unconformity it is suggested that it could be older. In spite of its late date, Stw 53 shows no intermediate characters which could support a trend towardsH. habilis orA. robustus Broom, 1938. It may, therefore, represent a relict population ofA. africanus.

Key Words

Homo habilis Australopithecus africanus Sterkfontein Cranial capacity Facial angle Dentition