Evidence of fatal skeletal injuries on Malapa Hominins 1 and 2

L'Abbe, Ericka, N., Symes, Steven, A., Pokines, James, T., Cabo, Luis, L., Stull, Kyra, E., Kuo, Sharon, Raymond, David, E., Randolph-Quinney, Patrick orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0694-5868 and Berger, Lee, R. (2015) Evidence of fatal skeletal injuries on Malapa Hominins 1 and 2. Scientific Reports, 5 (15120). ISSN 2045-2322

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep15120


Malapa is one of the richest early hominin sites in Africa and the discovery site of the hominin species, Australopithecus sediba. The holotype and paratype (Malapa Hominin 1 and 2, or MH1 and MH2, respectively) skeletons are among the most complete in the early hominin record. Dating to approximately two million years BP, MH1 and MH2 are hypothesized to have fallen into a natural pit trap. All fractures evident on MH1 and MH2 skeletons were evaluated and separated based on wet and dry bone fracture morphology/characteristics. Most observed fractures are post-depositional, but those in the right upper limb of the adult hominin strongly indicate active resistance to an impact, while those in the juvenile hominin mandible are consistent with a blow to the face. The presence of skeletal trauma independently supports the falling hypothesis and supplies the first evidence for the manner of death of an australopith in the fossil record that is not attributed to predation or natural death.

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