Re: The Black Skull?

Jim Foley (
7 Feb 1995 19:24:56 GMT

In article <3h8edc$>,
Victor Debattista <> wrote:

>At that time, a new skull had been found in Africa (that's hardly being
>specific, I can dig up more details if need be, but i'm gambling that find was
>as significant as I thought it was) which was labelled the Black Skull. The
>idea about it was that it did not belong to any of the known australipitocenes
>(sp?) but shared many of the robustus type characteristics. There were
>problems with its age and where it fits in in a "geneology". At the time, no
>scientific name had yet been agreed upon for this new species. Does anyone
>know what I'm talking about? What is the current thinking about this species?

It is indeed a significant fossil. Here are the entries in my FAQ file
on the fossil itself and the species in which it is placed. The Leakey
and Lewin book mentioned is a good place to find out more about the
Black Skull.

Australopithecus aethiopicus

This species existed from 2.6 to 2.3 million years ago. It is poorly
known, with only one good specimen, the Black Skull discovered by Alan
Walker. It may be an ancestor of robustus and boisei, but it has a
baffling mixture of primitive and advanced traits. Parts of the skull,
particularly the hind portions, are very primitive, most resembling
afarensis. Other characteristics, like the massiveness of the face,
jaws and single tooth found, and the largest sagittal crest in any known
hominid, are more reminiscent of A.boisei (Leakey and Lewin, 1992). (A
sagittal crest is a bony ridge on top of the skull to which chewing
muscles attach)

KNM-WT 17000, "The Black Skull", Australopithecus aethiopicus
Discovered by John Walker in 1985 at West Turkana in Kenya.
Estimated age is 2.5 million years. This find is a skull with most
of the braincase and face intact. The brain size is very small for
a hominid, about 410 cc, and the skull has a puzzling mixture of
primitive and advanced features. (Leakey and Lewin, 1992)

Jim Foley (303) 223-5100 x9765
Jim.Foley@FtCollinsCO.NCR.COM NCR-MPD Fort Collins