The geologic, environmental, and taphonomic context of the Taung Australopithecus africanus skull has been the subject of speculation and sporadic research since its first publication. In order to refine our contextual knowledge of this important hominin fossil, systematic excavations of the Taung fossil site at the Buxton Limeworks, in the Taung district of what is now the North West Province of South Africa, were conducted from 1988 to 1993. The excavations began on the Hrdlička pinnacle, where Aleš Hrdlička had found fossiliferous deposits in 1925. A separate set of deposits, closer to the reconstructed position of the 1924 Australopithecus discovery and more consistent with the historical record of the Taung discovery, was uncovered on the quarry floor, 42 m southwest of and 6 m lower than the nearest Hrdlička deposits. The fossils of these three distinct deposits, known as the ‘Dart deposits,’ are sparsely distributed, representing different taphonomic conditions and most likely older than most previous discoveries. There are 16 cercopithecid fossils and four bovid fossils, along with eggshell, turtle shell, brachiopods, and reed casts. They provide the most immediate context for the depositional conditions of the Taung Australopithecus juvenile.
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