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Origins of Humankind
The Hominid Family Tree

Orrorin tugenensis
(6 mya)

Ardipithecus ramidus
(4.4 mya)

Australopithecus anamensis
(4.2 to 3.9 mya)

Australopithecus afarensis
(3.6 to 2.9 mya)

Kenyanthropus platyops
(3.5 to 3.3 mya)

Australopithecus africanus
(3 to 2 mya)

Australopithecus aethiopicus
(2.7 to 2.3 mya)

Australopithecus garhi
(2.5 mya)

Australopithecus boisei
(2.3 to 1.4 mya)

Homo habilis
(2.3 to 1.6 mya)

Homo erectus
(1.8 to 0.3 mya)

Australopithecus robustus
(1.8 to 1.5 mya)

Homo heidelbergensis
(600 to 100 tya)

Homo neanderthalensis
(250 to 30 tya)

Homo sapiens
(100 tya to present)

mya = millions of years ago        tya = thousands of years ago


Australopithecus robustus (1.8 to 1.5 million years ago)

Species Description:

Australopithecus robustus possesses a combination of primitive and derived physical traits. While its brain size is much like that of A. afarensis, other characteristics are quite different.

Specimens of this species have massive flat or concave faces. The front teeth of A. robustus are small relative to the species' massive grinding teeth and thickly enameled molars and premolars. Most A. robustus specimens also have sagittal crests (large ridges of bone running along the top of their skulls), which indicate powerful chewing muscles used for grinding tough foods.

Skeletal remains identified as belonging to A. robustus indicate that males and females differed markedly in body size, with males standing on average 4 feet 4 inches tall and weighing about 92 pounds and females standing 3 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 71 pounds.

Modified bones found alongside A. robustus skeletons suggest members of the species may have used tools to help them access buried food. A. robustus probably inhabited woodland and savanna habitats where they foraged for foods like roots, nuts, and possibly insects.

Fossil Finds:

TM 1517
Estimated age: 2 to 1.5 million years
Date of discovery: 1938
Location: Kromdraai, South Africa

A schoolboy discovered the first A. robustus remains ever found, including skull fragments, teeth, and pieces of a skeleton.


Estimated age: 2 to 1.5 million years
Date of discovery: 1994
Location: Drimolen cave, South Africa

This is one of the most complete early hominid skulls ever found, and the first significant fossil of a female A. robustus. This skull is named after the Greek nymph Eurydice, who died next to her love Orpheus. A lower jaw from a male of the same species, nicknamed Orpheus, was found a few inches away.

Evidence of Culture:

Digging tools made of bone
Estimated age: 2 to 1.5 million years
Date of discovery: 1950
Location: Swartkrans cave, South Africa

Abrasions on stick-shaped animal bones found alongside A. robustus fossils suggest that the species may have used these bones as tools for digging up edible roots or for excavating termite mounds.

-> Go to Homo heidelbergensis

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