Raymond Dart

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Raymond Dart, holding the Taung Child skull

Raymond Dart (February 4 189322 November 1988) was an Australian anatomist and anthropologist best known for his discovery in 1924 of a fossil of Australopithecus at Taung in Northwestern South Africa.

He was born in Brisbane, Australia and studied at the University of Queensland, University of Sydney and University College, London, before taking a position as head of the newly established department of anatomy at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1922.

In 1924, one of his students brought Dart an endocranial cast found at a limestone quarry at Taung. Dart examined the Taung Child fossil, as it came to be known, and pronounced it to be a new species, Australopithecus africanus. Dart postulated his new find to be a missing link between apes and humans because of its small brain size, but relatively human-like dentition and a probable upright posture.

Dart's discovery and Dart himself were initially heavily criticized by the eminent anthropologists of the day, most notably Sir Arthur Keith who claimed the Taung Child to be nothing other than a juvenile gorilla. Because the specimen was indeed a juvenile, there was a lot of room for interpretation, and because African origins for mankind and the development of bipedalism before a human-like brain were both inconsistent with the prevailing evolutionary notions of the time, Dart and his Child became the butt of many attacks.

Dart's closest ally was Robert Broom whose discoveries of further australopithecines, as well as Wilford Le Gros Clark's support eventually vindicated Dart.

Not all of Dart's ideas are accepted today, however. His assertion that gazelle long-bones found in association with Australopithecus africanus were used as tools is unproven and largely dismissed, likewise his theories on war and interpersonal aggression as the driving force behind the evolution from ape to man.

Dart continued in his position as director of the School of Anatomy at University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, until 1958. In 1959, an autobiographical account of his discovery was published called Adventures with the Missing Link.. The Institute for the Study of Man in Africa was founded at Witwatersrand in his honor.

External links

  • Raymond Dart (http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/abcde/dart_raymond.html)
  • Raymond Dart (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/rdart.html)

Related topics


  • Dart R.A. (1925): Australopithecus africanus: the man-ape of South Africa (http://www.nature.com/nature/fow/pdf/115195.pdf). Nature, 115:195-9 (the original paper communicating the Taung finding, in PDF format).
  • Dart, Raymond and Craig, Dennis. Adventures with the Missing Link. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959 (autobiography).
  • Fagan, Brian. The Passion of Raymond Dart. Archaeology v. 42 (May-June 1989): p. 18.pt:Raymond Dart

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