Taung and AAH

JEFFREY K McKEE (055jkms@chiron.wits.ac.za)
Tue, 13 Dec 1994 14:56:30 GMT

I am really baffled to read all this stuff about the Aquatic Ape
Hypothesis. Someone noted that it is anthropologists who oppose the idea,
and perhaps that is because we anthropologists, particularly paleo-
anthropologists, have the evidence.

I excavated at Taung for 7 years, and demonstrated that the environment in
which our ancestors lived some 2.8 million years ago was savannah. There
was water there ... enough for the hapless Taung child to drown in and get
washed back into a cave, but hardly enough for an aquatic ape. Now I am
working at Makapansgat, a 3.2 Myr old site revealing our ancestors in a
forested environment with no major water source nearby. Both of those
sites, like others in southern Africa have Australopithecus africanus. It's
predecessors in East Africa, A. afarensis, also have been found in both
savannah and woodland environments. Sometimes there are nearby lakes, but
that hardly proves that our ancestors were adapted for life in the lakes.

And now we have A. ramidus, at 4.4 Myr, and interesting potential ancestor,
also having lived in a forested environment.

So when, and WHERE, did our ancestors go through this alleged aquatic
phase? And why does ALL of the evidence contradict the AAH? Why is it even
worth discussing?

Jeff McKee
Hominid Palaeoecology Research Programme
University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg, South Africa