The ancient archaeological site of Sterkfontein is a network of caves in a dolomite hill of the Blaaubank River Valley, about 10 kilometers northwest of Krugersdorp, South Africa.
The site was quarried as early as the late 19th century, and several fossil apes were discovered in the early decades of the 20th century. In the 1930s, excavations recovered fragments of hominids, eventually assigned to the Australopithecus africanus family. Since its discovery, deposits of Sterkfontein have included hundreds of hominid specimens, including Homo, Paranthropus, and Australopithecus.
Dating Sterkfontein's deposits has proven to be particularly difficult. Dates for the deposits range between 2 and 5 million years ago. The cave is complicated, with multi-level, multi-period system and active rooms which are continuously building new spaces and undermining older deposits.
Nevertheless, recognized artifact layers within the cave deposits have been identified, including Acheulean and Oldowan membeers. Paleomagnetic investigations of these layers suggest a likely age of 1.32 million years for the Oldowan and 1.13 million years for the Acheulean.
Mrs. Ples and Australopithecines at Sterkfontein
In the 1940s, Robert Broom excavated in the site, and found the nearly entire skull of an adult Australopithecine called Mrs. Ples. Several other fossils of this species have been identified since, and some scholars argue that at least one Australopithecus sediba is among them. Australopithecus in Sterkfontein date between 2.5 and 2.8 million years ago. The A. sediba, if that's what it is, may be ca. 2 million years old.
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