Taung Child Fossil, The

The Taung Child fossil

All Australopithecus fossils have been unearthed in the southern part of the African continent. The reason why this species has been given the name Australopithecus, meaning "South African ape," is that these animals have features very similar to those of present-day apes.

The first fossils claimed to belong to this species were found in a coal mine in the Taung region of South Africa in 1924. The first fossil described as Australopithecus consisted of a young ape's face and lower jaw bones, and a skull  of 410 cubic centimeters in volume. The discoverers of the fossil took it to Raymond Dart, an anthropologist.

Based on the skull's fine structure and thinking that its teeth resembled human teeth, Dr. Dart suggested that the fossil belonged to a hominid. Shortly afterwards, he published an article in Nature magazine titled "Australopithecus: Ape-Man in South Africa." Scientists who said that the fossil actually belonged to a chimpanzee did not take Dart seriously. Yet he persisted with the idea that the fossil was a hominid and convinced Dr. Robert Bloom, a famous physicist, of this, devoting the rest of his life to finding support for the new species he had found. Even then, scientific circles began jokingly referring to the fossil he had found as "Dart's baby." Evolutionists then lined up behind the fossil, inventing a new species to which they had given the name Australopithecus. The first fossil discovered was given the full name Australopithecus africanus.

Following the discovery of this fossil, which was given the nickname of "the Taung Child" because it was thought to belong to a young individual, other paleontologists-especially the Leakey family-stepped up their own research. In the 1950s, other fossils regarded as belonging to Australopithecus were found in digs financed by National Geographic magazine in Kromdraai, Swartkrans and Makapansgat in South Africa. Some of these ape fossils had a coarser structure, while others were smaller and finer. The coarser ones were bulkier and heavier than the others, with a larger bottom jaw and bony protrusions over the eyebrows being their most distinguishing features.

Although these are all typical examples of gender differences between modern-day male and female monkeys, scientists persisted in regarding them as separate species.

After Dart presented the fossil given the name Australopithecus africanus, he received substantial criticism from scientists. Arthur Keith, one of the most prominent anatomists to comment on the fossil, said:

[Dart's] claim is preposterous, the skull is that of a young anthropoid ape . . . and showing so many points of affinity with the two living African anthropoids, the gorilla and chimpanzee, that there cannot be a moment's hesitation in placing the fossil form in this living group. 237

According to evolutionists, what Australopithecines shared with human beings was they had left the trees and adapted to bipedalism (walking upright). Dart concluded that the Taung Child he had found was able to walk on two legs, since according to him, that part of the spinal cord known as the magnum was further back than that in humans, but further forward than in monkeys. On the basis of this, Dart then claimed that the animal was capable of standing on its two hind legs. This theory was not accepted by scientists at the time, but was supported until the 1950s. However, no part of the skeleton that might permit an estimation of bipedalism was available. The only specimens consisted of the skull and a few fragmented thigh, hip and foot bones. Yet evolutionists still insisted on their claims regarding bipedalism.

Lord Solly Zuckerman had carried out perhaps the most detailed studies of the Australopithecines family. Despite being an evolutionist, Zuckerman thought that Australopithecus was nothing more than an ape. Together with a four-member team, Zuckerman used the most advanced methods of anatomical investigation, which began in 1954 and lasted for several years. In the wake of these investigations, he declared that these creatures had not walked on two legs and were not an intermediate form between humans and apes. The concluding report by Zuckerman and his team read:

For my own part, the anatomical basis for the claim that the Australopithecines walked and ran upright like man is so much more flimsy than the evidence which points to the conclusion that their gait was some variant of what one sees in subhuman Primates, that it remains unacceptable. 238

These judgments, published by Zuckerman in the mid-1950s, were confirmed by subsequent researchers. Dean Falk, a specialist in neuroanatomy, declared that the Taung skull belonged to a young monkey. "In his 1975 article, Dart had claimed that the brain of Taung was humanlike. As it turned out, he was wrong about that. . . . Taung's humanlike features were overemphasized," claimed Falk, who went on to say:

Like humans, [apes and monkeys] go through stages as they grow up. In his analysis of Taung, Dart did not fully appreciate that infant apes have not had time to develop features of the skull, such as thickened eyebrow ridges or attachment areas for heavy neck muscles, that set adult apes apart from human. Apparently he did not carefully consider the possibility that Taung's rounded forehead or the inferred position of the spinal cord might be due to the immaturity of the apelike specimen rather than to its resemblance to humans. 239

The protrusions over the eyebrows, the most important feature that led to Australopithecus africanus being described as a hominid, can be seen in young gorillas today. From all this, it appears that the skull ascribed  to Australopithecus africanus by evolutionists did not belong to an ancestor of man but in all probability, to a young ape.

237. David Johanson and James Shreeve, Lucy's Child, NewYork: William Morrow and Co., 1989, p. 56.
238. Solly Zuckerman, Beyond the Ivory Tower (1970), p. 93.
239. Dean Falk, Braindance, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1992, pp.12, 13.

2009-08-17 16:33:13

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