Taxonomic affinity of the early Homo cranium from Swartkrans, South Africa

F E Grine, B Demes, W L Jungers, T M Cole
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 1993, 92 (4): 411-26
A quantitative analysis that employs randomization methods and distance statistics has been undertaken in an attempt to clarify the taxonomic affinities of the partial Homo cranium (SK 847) from Member 1 of the Swartkrans Formation. Although SK 847 has been argued to represent early H. erectus, exact randomization tests reveal that the magnitude of differences between it and two crania that have been attributed to that taxon (KNM-ER 3733 and KNM-WT 15000) is highly unlikely to be encountered in a modern human sample drawn from eastern and southern Africa. Some of the variables that differentiate SK 847 from the two early H. erectus crania (e.g., nasal breadth, frontal breadth, mastoid process size) have been considered to be relevant characters in the definition of that taxon. Just as the significant differences between SK 847 and the two early H. erectus crania make attribution of the Swartkrans specimen to that taxon unlikely, the linkage of SK 847 to KNM-ER 1813, and especially Stw 53, suggests that the Swartkrans cranium may have its closest affinity with H. habilis sensu lato. Differences from KNM-ER 1813, however, hint that the South African fossils may represent a species of early Homo that has not been sampled in the Plio-Pleistocene of eastern Africa. The similarity of SK 847 and Stw 53 may support faunal evidence which suggests that Sterkfontein Member 5 and Swartkrans Member 1 are of similar geochronological age.

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