Sterkfontein at 75: review of palaeoenvironments, fauna and archaeology from the hominin site of Sterkfontein (Gauteng Province, South Africa)

Reynolds, Sally Christine
Kibii, Job Munuhe
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Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, University of the Witwatersrand
Seventy-five years after Robert Broom’s discovery of the first adult Australopithecus in 1936, the Sterkfontein Caves (Gauteng Province, South Africa) remains one of the richest and most informative fossil hominin sites in the world. The deposits record hominin and African mammal evolution from roughly 2.6 million years (Ma) until the Upper Pleistocene. Earlier excavation efforts focused on the Member 4 australopithecine-bearing breccia and the Member 5 stone tool-bearing breccias of Oldowan and Early Acheulean age. Ronald J. Clarke’s 1997 programme of understanding the cave deposits as a whole led to the discovery of the near-complete StW 573 Australopithecus skeleton in the Member 2 deposit of the Silberberg Grotto, and the exploration of lesser known deposits such as the Jacovec Cavern, Name Chamber and the Lincoln Cave. Our aim is to produce a cogent synthesis of the environments, palaeodietary information, fauna and stone artefacts as recorded in the Sterkfontein sequence. We begin with an overview of the site and early accounts of the interpretations of the site-formation processes, after which we discuss each Member in turn and summarize the various types of evidence published so far. Finally, we review the most pertinent debates about the site, including the ages of Sterkfontein Member 2 and 4, and the types of habitats represented at the site through time.
Sterkfontein, Australopithecus, Paranthropus, Homo, mammals, hominins, stable isotopes, climatic change, cave formation