Bloodsport in Australopithecus africanus?

ResearchBlogging.orgA few months ago in a post about the ilium and cannibals, I relayed a quote by Dr. Raymond Dart who was the first to recognize (and name) the hominid genus Australopithecus, back in 1925. I’d also mentioned that he was described [in a reference that escapes me] as “blood-thirsty.” This macabre descriptor came to mind again, as I’m reading his (1948) description of the MLD 2 mandible, of a juvenile A. africanus from Makapansgat cave in South Africa (figure is from the paper):

“[Individuals represented by MLD2 and another skull fragment] met their death by manually applied violence. The fractures exhibited by the mandible show that the violence, which probably occurred in fatal combat, was a localized crushing impact received by the face slightly to the left of the midline in the incisor region, and administered presumably by a bludgeon… this youth probably met his fate at the hands of a kinsman more expert than himself in the accurate application of directed implements” (p. 393-394)

This rather fanciful hypothesis may reflect Dart’s alleged bloodlust, and the condition of the fossil likely reflects damage that occurred after death during the sometimes abusive process of fossilization.


Reference
Dart, R. (1948). The adolescent mandible of Australopithecus prometheus American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 6 (4), 391-412 DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.1330060410
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2 thoughts on “Bloodsport in Australopithecus africanus?

  1. Cannibalistic Australopithecines who try to club their own children to death?This definately deserves a place in one of those crappy Documentaries about human evolution.

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