Sunday, 1 March 2020


Two views of a natural endocranial cast articulated with a fragmentary skull of Australopithecus africanus, an early hominid living between 2-3 million years ago in the late Pliocene and into the early Pleistocene -- and the first pre-human to be discovered. They shared many characteristics with their older relatives the Australopithecus afarensis including a more gracile body. The casts you see here show the left maxilla, the orbital area and most of the skull base.

Australopithecus africanus had a larger brain and more humanoid facial features than their older ancestors with an average endocranial volume of 485 cm3 (29.6 cu in). This specimen is TM 1511 and lives in the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, an amalgamation of eight museums, seven in Tshwane and one in Johannesburg. These museums have diverse collections covering the fields of fauna and flora, palaeontology, military history, cultural history, geology, anthropology and archaeology. The museum is enjoyed by children, youth, adults, students, tourists (foreign and local), researchers and the public in general. The museum is in Pretoria, South Africa which straddles the Apies River and has spread eastwards into the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains.

Prior to a closer look by researchers, the skull was incorrectly believed to be a separate species, Plesianthropus transvaalensis. It was first discovered in South Africa by G. W. Barlow and described by Robert Broom in 1938. Photo credit: José Braga and Didier Descouens.