December 23, 1924 (a Tuesday)

First fossil skull of Australopithecus.

On this date, Raymond Dart completed his work removing the first fossil skull of Australopithecus from its matrix of rock. Being one of the “missing links” in man’s evolution, Dart had taken exquisite care during 73 days to separate skull and stone, at work in his laboratory in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Dart with his students made the find in the Taung limestone works in the Harts Valley of Bechuanaland. When an endocranial cast was found, at first it seemed to be just another primate skull. Then, Dart noticed how amazingly close to human it looked. Dart had discovered the Taung child, who was only three years old at the time of death. He named it Australopithecus africanus. (Australis means “south” and pithecus means “ape”).

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