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Drimolen Palaeocave System
Map showing the location of Drimolen Palaeocave System
Map showing the location of Drimolen Palaeocave System
Location in Gauteng
Location Gauteng, South Africa
Nearest city Muldersdrift, South Africa
Coordinates 25°58′05″S 27°45′18″E / 25.968°S 27.755°E / -25.968; 27.755Coordinates: 25°58′05″S 27°45′18″E / 25.968°S 27.755°E / -25.968; 27.755
Established Discovered 1992
Governing body Cradle of Humankind Management Authority and Private Landowner

The Drimolen Palaeocave System consists of a series of a terminal Pliocene to early Pleistocene hominin-bearing palaeocave fills located around 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Johannesburg, South Africa, and about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) north of Sterkfontein in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cradle of Humankind.[1]

History of Research[edit]

The site was discovered on 9 July 1992 by Dr Andre Keyser and he continued to direct excavations at the site until his death in 2010. On 21 October 1994 Dr Keyser discovered the DNH 7 (Eurydice) skull, the most complete Paranthropus robustus skull ever found.[2] It is also considered a rare female skull of P. robustus. DNH 8, a male mandible called "Orpheus" was also discovered at the same time and adjacent to DNH 7.[2] Colin Menter directed research and excavations at the site from 2010 until 2016.[1] Excavations at the site were conducted by technical assistants in the early years and by a number of field schools in the latter years. These include the University of Florence, Italy (Prof Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi; 2006-2012), the University of Victoria, Canada (2011, 2012, 2014), and La Trobe University, Australia (Prof Andy Herries; 2013–present). The permit and excavations at the site were taken over by Stephanie Baker of the University of Johannesburg in 2017 in collaboration with Prof Andy Herries of La Trobe University (& the University of Johannesburg) as part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project (2017–21). This also involves collaborations with Prof David Strait of Washington University in St Louis, who runs a US based field school[3] as well as researchers from South Africa, Australia, the US and Italy.

Drimolen Main Quarry[edit]

All the hominin remains have been recovered from the area of the classic area of the site known as the Drimolen Main Quarry (DMQ), and include remains of Paranthropus robustus and early Homo.[4] DMQ dates to sometime between 2.0 and 1.4 Ma (the same age as the site of Swartkrans).[1] DMQ has also yielded some of the world's oldest bone tools and some of South Africa's oldest stone tools.[5]

Drimolen Makondo[edit]

In 2013 a new fossil deposit was discovered around 50 metres (160 ft) away from the Main Quarry that is known as the Drimolen Makondo (DMK).[1] DMK has not yielded any hominin remains but has been dated to a much older time period around 2.61 Ma,[1] making it similar in age to sites such as Sterkfontein and the Makapansgat Limeworks.


  1. ^ a b c d e Herries, Andy I.R.; Murszewski, Ashleigh; Pickering, Robyn; Mallett, Tom; Joannes-Boyau, Renaud; Armstrong, Brian; Adams, Justin W.; Baker, Stephanie; Blackwood, Alex F.; Penzo-Kajewski, Paul; Kappen, Peter; Leece, AB; Martin, Jesse; Rovinsky, Douglass; Boschian, Giovanni (2018). "Geoarchaeological and 3D visualisation approaches for contextualising in-situ fossil bearing palaeokarst in South Africa: A case study from the ∼2.61 Ma Drimolen Makondo". Quaternary International. 483: 90–110. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2018.01.001. ISSN 1040-6182.
  2. ^ a b Keyser (2000). "The Drimolen skull, the most complete australopithecine cranium and mandible to date" (PDF). South African Journal of Science. 96: 189–197.
  3. ^ "Washington University Drimolen Cave Field School Summer Program".
  4. ^ Moggi-Cecchi, Jacopo; Menter, Colin; Boccone, Silvia; Keyser, André (2010). "Early hominin dental remains from the Plio-Pleistocene site of Drimolen, South Africa". Journal of Human Evolution. 58 (5): 374–405. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.01.006. ISSN 0047-2484.
  5. ^ Stammers, Rhiannon C.; Caruana, Matthew V.; Herries, Andy I.R. (2018). "The first bone tools from Kromdraai and stone tools from Drimolen, and the place of bone tools in the South African Earlier Stone Age". Quaternary International. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2018.04.026. ISSN 1040-6182.

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