Some little known chapters in the early history of the Makapansgat fossil hominid site
Tobias, Phillip V.
Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research
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 As a result of the unexplained loss of this report, at or en route to the publisher, it remains unpublished to this day.
Makapansgat, Australopithecus, Cercopithecidae, Buffalo Cave