Museum receives cast of 1.9 million year old hominid
Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research, Academic Services and Collections), and Professor Sue Iversen, acting director of the museum, received the casts from Professor Loyiso Nongxa, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg) in a ceremony and lunch at St John's College.
The casts were taken from two partial skeletons of Australopithecus sediba which were discovered in a cave in the Cradle of Mankind, north of Johannesburg in South Africa, in 2008. The skeletons were of a juvenile male and mature female and represent an intermediate grade in the evolution from the still quite ape-like australopithecines to the genus Homo to which humans belong.
The cranial cavity indicates that the hominid still had a small brain, no larger than that of a chimpanzee, but there are signs of distinctly human-like features. The hand has a relatively long thumb and short fingers, indicating a human-like grasping ability perhaps capable of primitive tool-making, and the foot appears to have still been adapted for tree climbing as well as for walking on the ground as a fully bipedal creature.
Mrs Malgosia Nowak-Kemp, the Collections Manager of the Zoological Collections at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, said: We are delighted to have been given these casts, which are incredibly important items in the history of the development of humankind. It's too early to tell for certain, but Australopithecus sediba appears to be the closest relative to Homo yet discovered. It will prove an extremely valuable addition to the teaching collection of pre- and early-human casts which are used by students of Archaeology and Anthropology, Human Sciences and Biological Sciences.
When not in use for teaching, the casts will be displayed in the Primate and Human Evolution case along the lower northern aisle of the Museum.
Provided by University of Oxford