A review of early Homo in southern Africa focusing on cranial, mandibular and dental remains, with the description of a new species (Homo gautengensis sp. nov.).
The southern African sample of early Homo is playing an increasingly important role in understanding the origins, diversity and adaptations of the human genus. Yet, the affinities and classification of these remains continue to be in a state of flux. The southern African sample derives from five karstic palaeocave localities and represents more than one-third of the total African sample for this group; sampling an even wider range of anatomical regions than the eastern African collection. Morphological and phenetic comparisons of southern African specimens covering dental, mandibular and cranial remains demonstrate this sample to contain a species distinct from known early Homo taxa. The new species Homo gautengensis sp. nov. is described herein: type specimen Stw 53; Paratypes SE 255, SE 1508, Stw 19b/33, Stw 75-79, Stw 80, Stw 84, Stw 151, SK 15, SK 27, SK 45, SK 847, SKX 257/258, SKX 267/268, SKX 339, SKX 610, SKW 3114 and DNH 70. H. gautengensis is identified from fossils recovered at three palaeocave localities with current best ages spanning approximately 2.0 to 1.26-0.82 million years BP. Thus, H. gautengensis is probably the earliest recognised species in the human genus and its longevity is apparently well in excess of H. habilis.