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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2009;140 Suppl 49:49-65. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21184.

The natural endocast of Taung (Australopithecus africanus): insights from the unpublished papers of Raymond Arthur Dart.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-7772, USA.


Dart's 1925 announcement of Australopithecus africanus (Dart: Nature 115 [1925] 195-199) was highly controversial, partly because of an interpretation of the Taung natural endocast that rested on an erroneous identification of the lambdoid suture as the lunate sulcus. Unpublished materials from the University of Witwatersrand Archives (Dart, unpublished material) reveal that Dart reacted to the controversy by: 1) describing and illustrating the entire sulcal pattern on the Taung endocast, in contrast to just two sulcal identifications in 1925, 2) identifying a hypothetical part of the lambdoid suture and revising his description of the lunate sulcus, and 3) bolstering his argument that Taung's brain was advanced by detailing expansions in three significant cortical association areas. Four unpublished illustrations of Dart's identifications for sulci and sutures on the Taung endocast are compared here with those published by Keith (Keith: New discoveries relating to the antiquity of man (1931)), Schepers (Schepers: The endocranial casts of the South African ape-men. In: Broom R, Schepers GWH, editors. The South African fossil ape-men; the Australopithecinae [1946] p 155-272), and Falk (Falk: Am J Phys Anthropol 53 [1980] 525-539), and the thorny issue of the location of the lunate sulcus is revisited in light of new information. Archival materials reveal that Dart believed that Taung's brain was reorganized globally rather than in a mosaic manner, and that the shapes of certain cortical association areas showed that Australopithecus was closer to Pithecanthropus than to the living apes. Although a few of Dart's hitherto-unpublished sulcal identifications, including his revision for the lunate sulcus, were questionable, his claim that the Taung endocast reproduced a shape that was advanced toward a human condition in its prefrontal cortex and caudally protruded occipital lobe was correct.

Copyright 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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