Site: Swartkrans Species: H. habilis Year of Discovery: 1969  Discovered by: Ronald Clarke  Geological Age: 1.8 – 1.5 million years old  Cultural Attribution: Developmental Age: Presumed Sex:
Preserved Skeletal Party: Cranium  Preservation: Partial Preservation Details: Anatomical Description: Additional Notes: This fossil has similarities to early African Homo erectus. Yet it shows other similarities to Homo habilis, also known to occur from eastern to southern Africa. 
Source: Encyclopedia of Human Evolution and Prehistory: Second Edition
South African karst-cave breccia deposit in dolomitic limestone located north of the Bloubank River, ca. 2 km north-west of the site of Sterksfontein. Fossil bones were recovered from the site during lime-mining operations in the 1930s, and the first hominid specimen was discovered by R. Broom and J. T. Robinson in 1948. This specimen was described in 1949 by Broom, who attributed it to a novel species of the “robust australopithecine” genus Paranthropus, namely P. crassidens. Although a few workers have resuscitated this species, most paleoanthropologists consider that the material is not specifically distinct from the Kromdaai P. robustus. Work by Broom and Robinson (1948-1949), Robinson (1951-1953), and, most recently, the extensive and meticulous excavations by C. K. Brain (1965-1986) have resulted in the recovery of the remains of more than 100 individuals of P. robustus. in 1949, Robinson discovered a fossil mandible of a more “advanced” early human, which Broom and he named Telanthropus capensis. Subsequent work by Broom, Robinson, and Brain has produced the remains of six individuals of what is now termed Homo sp. (probably cf. Homo habilis in Member 1 and cf. Homo erectus in Member 2). The Homo fossils derive from the same stratigraphic units as the Paranthropus remains. Thus, Swartkrans provided the first conclusive evidence for the contemporaneity of Homo and Paranthropus, since confirmed in the Koobi Fora and Shungura formations of the Lake Turkana sequence of East Africa.
Two sedimentary members were recognized and formally named by K. Butzer in 1976. At that time, the known Paranthropus fossils came only from the earlier Member 1 breccia, while Homo remains were known from both Members 1 and 2. The further work by Brain has resulted in the recognition of seven distinct units arrayed in five successive members: the Member 1 “Hanging Remnant,” originally excavated as the “Pink Breccia” by Broom and Robinson (the source of most of the Paranthropus fossils); the Member 1 “Lower Bank” deposits, which have been recognized as the outer-cave equivalent of the Hanging Remnant; the calcified Member 2 breccia, originally sampled by Broom and Robinson and the source of the type mandible of “Telanthropus capensis” (catalogued as SK 15); together with the decalcified Member 2 deposits, from which both Paranthropus and Homo fossils have been recovered by Brain; Member 3, which contains several Paranthropus teeth together with burnt bone; Member 4, which yields Middle Stone Age artifacts; and Member 5, which is dominated by the bones of the extinct springbok, Antidorcas bondi.
While the Member 1 Hanging Remnant breccia has provided very few lithic artifacts, these are strikingly abundant in the Member 1 Lower Bank deposits, and these lightly calcified sediments have also yielded bone tools, characterized by smooth, tapering points. Ca. 60 of these bone tools were recovered from Members 1, 2, and 3 by Brain, who demonstrated that they were most probably used as digging implements to extract edible bulbs and tubers from the ground in the vicinity of the cave. The lithic artifacts from Members 1, 2 and 3 do not differ significantly from one another, and they may be assigned to a core/chopper/flake (Mode 1, or Oldowan) tradition, although there are hints that a biface technology might also be associated in Members 2 and 3. Several bones, predominantly from Member 3, also display the clear indications of having been cut by stone tools.
in 1984, Brain uncovered the first of 270 burnt bone pieces from Member 3, including two bone tools made of horncores and a hominid phalanx, which had been heated to various degrees. His experimental work with A. Sillen has demonstrated clearly that some of these bones were subjected to the prolonged, very high temperatures that are reached in campfires. The nonhominid vertebrate remains from Members 1, 2, and 3 suggest a relatively consistent fauna throughout the depositional history of these units. These bones suggest that the paleoenvironment remained relatively constant as well, with indications of high-veld grassland together with reverine woodland savannah conditions, and a Bloubank River that would have been considerably more substantial than at present.
The fauna from Members 1, 2 and 3 is of similar taxonomic composition, suggesting a date of between ca. 1.8 and 1.5 Ma for these units. Moreover, there are no appreciable differences among the numerous Paranthropus robustus fossils from these three strata. Bones of Antidorcas bondi from Member 5 have yielded radiocarbon (14C) dates of ca. 11 Ka.