The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

The original analysis of the manual and pedal phalanges from the Drimolen hominin site, South Africa


1School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, 2Centre for Anthropological research (CfAR), University of Johannesburg, South Africa, 3School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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Numerous studies have analyzed Plio-Pleistocene manual and pedal phalanges to evaluate tool-related behaviors and locomotion in early hominins. We analyze here nine undescribed phalanges from the fossil hominin site of Drimolen, South Africa. The manual specimens consist of one proximal (DNH 9), two proximal pollical (DNH 116 and DNH 119), four intermediates (DNH 48, DNH 63, DNH 65 and DNH 66) and one distal pollical phalanx (DNH 13). There is one pedal proximal phalanx (DNH 117).

As at Swartkrans, assignment of postcranial elements is hampered by the fact that two hominin species have been found at the site, namely Paranthropus robustus and early Homo. To analyze the specimens, multivariate statistics (PCA and CVA) were conducted on the specimens using raw and size-adjusted data. This was done within the context of a large extinct and extant dataset to compare size and shape data.

In general, PCA and CVA yielded similar results but only the raw data was useful in discriminating between taxa. There was poor discrimination in the analyses based upon size-adjusted data because of the huge degree of overlap between fossil and extant taxa. Consequently, results were not diagnostic and it wasn’t possible to assign specimens confidently to either Paranthropus or Homo. This is exacerbated by the isolated nature of the remains, the presence of two hominin taxa and taxonomic uncertainties of several Swartkrans phalanges. Despite these difficulties, these specimens do provide insight into the degree of morphological variation present in the phalanges from the Plio-Pleistocene of South Africa.

This research was funded by a PAST grant to DSV.

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