Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Sexy Skull Find Volume 53 Number 4, July/August 2000
by Angela M.H. Schuster

[image] While the top of the new-found skull of a female Paranthropus robustus, left [LARGER IMAGE], is rather smooth, that belonging to a male of the same species, right [LARGER IMAGE], found at Swartkrans, South Africa, in 1948, shows a pronounced sagittal crest. (Left, Colin Menter, University of the Witwatersrand; Right © David Brill, courtesy Transvaal Museum, Pretoria) [image]

A nearly complete skull belonging to a female Paranthropus robustus, an australopithecine that thrived in Africa 1.5 to 2 million years ago, has highlighted the differences between males and females within this early hominid species. Discovered at Drimolen, near the fossil-rich site of Swartkrans, South Africa, which in 1948 yielded one of the best-known examples of P. robustus, the skull was found alongside the mandible, or lower jaw, of a male. According to Andre Keyser of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, the female skull differs significantly from that of a male. Apart from being markedly smaller, females lacked a pronounced ridge, known as a sagittal crest, atop the cranial vault, a difference present in gorillas today.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America