Fossil mammals from the Gondolin Dump A ex situ hominin deposits, South Africa

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The Gondolin palaeokarstic system, located in the UNESCO Fossil Hominids of South Africa World Heritage Site, has been sporadically excavated since the 1970s. Sampling of ex situ dumpsites in 1997 recovered the only two fossil hominin specimens recovered thus far from Gondolin. While one partial mandibular molar (GA 1) remains unattributed, the complete mandibular second molar (GA 2) represents the largest Paranthropus robustus Broom, 1938 tooth identified to date. While subsequent excavations and research at Gondolin has clarified the geological, temporal, taphonomic, and palaeoecologic context for the in situ deposits, this paper presents the first comprehensive description of the fossil assemblage 'associated' with the two ex situ hominins. Analysis of 42 calcified sediment blocks and naturally decalcified sediments excavated from three cubic metres of the Dump A deposits reinforce that the dump contains a heterogeneous aggregation of materials from across the Gondolin sedimentary deposits. A total of 15,250 individual fossil specimens were processed (via sifting or acetic-acid mediated processing of calcified sediment blocks), yielding a faunal record that largely mirrors that described from either (or both) the GD 1 and GD 2 in situ assemblages but includes representatives of four novel mammal groups (Families Cercopithecidae, Felidae, Herpestidae, Giraffidae) not recorded in either in situ sample. While basic assemblage characteristics including primary taphonomic data is presented, analysis and interpretation is limited by the ex situ origin of the sample. Ultimately, these results reinforce that the substantial mining-mediated obliteration of palaeokarstic deposits at Gondolin continue to obscure a clear association between the Gondolin Dump A hominins and any of the sampled and dated in situ deposits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere5393
Number of pages42
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2018


  • Homo
  • Paranthropus robustus
  • Pleistocene
  • Taphonomy

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