Prehistoric Stock of South Africa

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    AT a meeting of the Royal Anthropological Institute (Section of Human Biology) on Jan. 8, Sir Arthur Keith exhibited a series of human skulls from the Matje River Rock Shelter, a newly discovered prehistoric site in the Zitzikamma District, on the coast of the Cape Province. The deposits in this rock-shelter, amounting to 21 feet in depth, were excavated by Prof. T. F. Dreyer, of Grey University College, Bloemfontein. The rock-shelter was first inhabited during the age of the ‘Mossel Bay’ culture, which is usually equated with one of the later palaœlithic cultures of Europe, and this culture was richly represented during the formation of the deeper strata, amounting in depth to 14 feet. All the remains from the Mossel Bay strata manifest racial traits, which were first revealed by the discovery of the large-brained Boskop skull in 1913. Three of the skulls from the deepest Mossel Bay strata have peculiar features of the forehead; the frontal bones appear compressed from side to side, with a high median keel. This malformation, known as trigonocephaly, occurs occasionally in modern races. A tendency to trigonism is not uncommon among Bushmen and Hottentots, who may be regarded as descendants of the prehistoric stock of South Africa. Sir Arthur Keith added that South Africa was the home of the most remarkable of all prehistoric peoples known to us, a people or stock tending to produce individuals with brains of remarkable dimensions and with a tendency for infantile and juvenile characters to persist into adult life, a tendency which Prof. M. R. Drennan has termed ‘pedomorphism’. Although remains of Bushmen have been found so far north as Lake Nyassa and Boskop remains in Northern Rho-desia, all the evidence at present points to South Africa as the evolutionary home of this prehistoric pedomorphic race.

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    Prehistoric Stock of South Africa. Nature 129, 90 (1932) doi:10.1038/129090c0

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