Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Glenn Conroy


The primary focus of this thesis is to extensively describe the cranial, mandibular, and dental specimens from Makapansgat and to compare the assemblage to other South African early hominin samples. The fossils examined here include previously undescribed fossils from the fossiliferous ex-situ breccia piles of the Makapansgat Limeworks. Data analyses incorporated extant humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and macaques to provide a comparative base with which to discuss intraspecific and interspecific variation in currently recognized taxa of South African Australopithecus. Results support previous assertions that the Makapansgat specimens share morphological similarities with both Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus robustus and that these taxa exhibit considerable overlap in variation. The Makapansgat hominins are distinct in some features, but several competing scenarios are viable. These results are discussed in light of current knowledge and phylogenetic hypotheses for South African early hominin evolution. A taxonomic distinction for the Makapansgat hominins: A. prometheus) is not recommended due to limitations of the small sample. However, these hominins compose the earliest known South African hominin sample and contribute a critical geographic and temporal element, as well as a biologically meaningful and unique pattern of morphological variation, for early hominin studies.


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