Volume 33 1997

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    Palaeontologia africana Volume 33
    (Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, 1997)
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    Some little known chapters in the early history of the Makapansgat fossil hominid site
    (Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, 1997) Tobias, Phillip V.
    The opening up of the Makapansgat Limeworks deposit as an early hominid site was closely linked with the early years of the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research. Much of the history of the events leading up to James Kitching's recovery of the fIrst australopithecine partial calvaria in 1947 is either scattered or remains unrecorded. An attempt is made here to recount the roles ofW.I. Eitzman, R.A. Dart, R. Broom, C. van Riet Lowe, B.D. Malan, J. Kitching and his brothers Ben and Scheepers, R.J. Mason and Dr. Bernard Price in the revelation of the scientifIc signifIcance of those Limeworks and of other important sites in the area, the Cave of Hearths, Rainbow Cave, Historic Cave and Mwulu's Cave. The historical part played by six student expeditions to the area in 1945-1947 is described. Save for palaeontological papers by J.S. Jensen, O.D.v.d.S. Mollett and M.M. Dale, and archaeological ones by P. V. Tobias, the major impact of these ventures has not hitherto been analysed. It is shown that the fIrst expedition was responsible for drawing R.A. Dart back into the fIeld after 20 years of virtual abstinence, for setting afoot a series of further ventures in that area, and for leading to the uncovering ofthe fIrst hominid specimens from the Limeworks from 1947 onwards. New evidence is presented bearing on the relationships between R.A. Dart and R. Broom, which suffered strain after both the Sterkfontein discoveries of cercopithecids in 1936 and those at the Makapansgat Limeworks in 1945. A note is added about the original extensive report on the fIrst student expedition, which independent referees had recommended to the Wits University Principal, H.R. Raikes, should be published. As a result of the unexplained loss of this report, at or en route to the publisher, it remains unpublished to this day.
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    The BPI - 50 years of palaeontological activity
    (Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, 1997) Rubidge, Bruce S.
    The Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research at the University of the Witwatersrand was established from an endowment made by Bernard Price in 1945. Now, a mere 50 years later, the Institute ranks as a prominent palaeontological research centre in Africa. It curates large collections of fossils including Karoo reptiles, mammals from the Makapansgat valley and other Plio-Pleistocene sites, invertebrates from the Bokkeveld and Zululand, and has a large palaeobotany herbarium. The Institute produces the journal Palaeontologia africana, the only journal in Africa dedicated to the publication of palaeontological papers. The BPI is closely affiliated to the Department of Palaeontology and Palaeoenvironmental Studies, the only department of palaeontology at a South African University. During the 50 years of its existence the BPI has played an important role in the advancement and dissemination of palaeontological knowledge in southern Africa.
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    Cretaceous fossils from the Orapa Diamond Mine
    (Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, 1997) Rayner, R. J.; Bamford, M. K.; Brothers, D. J.; Dippenaar-Schoeman, A. S.; McKay, I. J.; Oberprieler, R. G.; Waters, S. B.
    The Orapa kimberlite pipe, situated in north-central Botswana, is well-known for its rich reserves of diamonds. It is indeed one of the largest and richest diamond mines in the world. The kimberlite magma transporting the diamonds from the upper mantle erupted through a sequence ofKaroo-aged rocks before the deposition ofthe Kalahari Sands. This eruption has been radiometrically dated at early Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian-Coniacian). When volcanism ceased, a succession of epiclastic crater lake sediments was deposited above the kimberlite plug. Analysis of these sediments, which mostly comprise the results of mudflows and debris flows and fmer sediments during quiescenttimes, suggests that most of the sediments within the crater were deposited rapidly as mass flows, and were therefore mobilised soon after the volcanic eruption. Buried within the fine-grained sediments is a unique assemblage of fossils including flowering plants and many whole-bodied insects. The fossils are commonly exquisitely preserved in extremely fine-grained mudstone. Interpretation of the sedimentary facies and fossils is that the mid-Cretaceous climate of central Botswana was temperate, seasonal and wet, and the area surrounding the crater was forested. The fossils represent the recovery of the biota of the area after the violent eruptions of Orapa and other nearby kimberlite fissures and pipes. The fossils have contributed considerably to our understanding of mid-Cretaceous insects and flowering plants and suggest intimate relationships between the two at an early stage in the radiation of flowering plants. It seems that southern Gondwana (including southern Africa) was a centre of diversification for both insects and angiosperms in the mid-Cretaceous.
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    Coaxing history from the rocks: The contribution of the BPI (palaeontology)
    (Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, 1997) Raath, M. A.
    From humble beginnings at the conclusion of the Second World War, the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research has developed into a major centre of palaeontological research and training whose contribution extends far beyond the borders of South Africa. Over the 50 years of its existence it has amassed large collections offossils from most of the fossiliferous deposits of South Africa, covering a large segment of geological time and a broad sweep of the diversity oflife. These collections have provided the foundation for ongoing research by its staff and students, as well as by visiting scientists from many other parts of the world. As a component of the University of the Witwatersrand, the Institute incorporates the only separate teaching department of palaeontology in any South African university, through which a steady stream of undergraduate and graduate students has passed over the years. Many of those students now occupy senior research and management positions in institutions and corporations scattered across the world. Under its current leadership, the Institute looks set fair for the next 50 years of solid contribution to world palaeontology.