First hominine remains from a ∼1.0 million year old bone bed at Cornelia-Uitzoek, Free State Province, South Africa Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • We report here on evidence of early Homo around 1.0 Ma (millions of years ago) in the central plains of southern Africa. The human material, a first upper molar, was discovered during the systematic excavation of a densely-packed bone bed in the basal part of the sedimentary sequence at the Cornelia-Uitzoek fossil vertebrate locality. We dated this sequence by palaeomagnetism and correlated the bone bed to the Jaramillo subchron, between 1.07 and 0.99 Ma. This makes the specimen the oldest southern African hominine remains outside the dolomitic karst landscapes of northern South Africa. Cornelia-Uitzoek is the type locality of the Cornelian Land Mammal Age. The fauna contains an archaic component, reflecting previous biogeographic links with East Africa, and a derived component, suggesting incipient southern endemism. The bone bed is considered to be the result of the bone collecting behaviour of a large predator, possibly spotted hyaenas. Acheulian artefacts are found in small numbers within the bone bed among the fossil vertebrates, reflecting the penecontemporaneous presence of people in the immediate vicinity of the occurrence. The hominine tooth was recovered from the central, deeper part of the bone bed. In size, it clusters with southern African early Homo and it is also morphologically similar. We propose that the early Homo specimen forms part of an archaic component in the fauna, in parallel with the other archaic faunal elements at Uitzoek. This supports an emergent pattern of archaic survivors in the southern landscape at this time, but also demonstrates the presence of early Homo in the central plains of southern Africa, beyond the dolomitic karst areas.

authors

  • Brink, James S
  • Herries, Andy IR
  • Moggi-Cecchi, Jacopo
  • Gowlett, John AJ
  • Bousman, C Britt
  • Hancox, John P
  • Grün, Rainer
  • Eisenmann, Vera
  • Adams, Justin W
  • Rossouw, Lloyd

publication date

  • September 2012