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Australopithecus africanus Taung Child
Early Human Skull & Brain Endocast
This is a resin replica of the original Taung Child the fossilized skull of a young Australopithecus africanus individual. It was discovered in 1924 by quarrymen working for the Northern Lime Company in Taung, South Africa. Raymond Dart, an anatomist at the University of Witwatersrand, received the fossil, recognized its importance and published his discovery in the journal Nature in 1925, describing it as a new species. The British establishment was at the time enamored with the hoax Piltdown man, which had a large brain and ape-like teeth – the exact opposite of the Taung Child – and Raymond Dart's finding was not appreciated for decades.
The fossil consists of most of the face and mandible with teeth and, uniquely, a natural endocast of the braincase. It is estimated to be 2.5 MYA years old. Originally thought to have been a primate, Dart realized that the skull would have been positioned directly above the spine. This is a trait seen in humans, but not other apes.
Taung Child is believed to have been three years-old at the time of its death. It was a creature standing 3' 6" at approximately 20-24 pounds. Taung Child had a cranial capacity of 340 cc, living mainly in a savanna habitat. Examinations of the Taung Child fossil compared to that of an equivalent 9-year-old child suggest that A. africanus had a growth rate to adolescence more similar to modern apes like chimpanzees (genus Pan) than compared with modern Homo sapiens. However intermediate species such as Homo ergaster/Homo erectus are thought to have gone through growths intermediate between modern humans and apes. The evidence has mostly been based on that of Turkana Boy discovered in 1984.
In early 2006 it was announced that the Taung Child was likely killed by an eagle (or similar large predatory bird). This conclusion was reached by noting similarities in the damage to the skull and eye sockets of the Taung Child to the skulls of primates known to have been killed by modern eagles.
4 inches high
Class: Hominids & Humans
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