Cooper's Cave

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Cooper's Cave (26 00' 46"S, 27 44' 45"E) is actually a series of fossil-bearing breccia filled cavities located almost exactly between the well known South African hominid-bearing sites of Sterkfontein and Kromdraai and about 40km Northwest of the City of Johannesburg, South Africa.

History of Investigations

Cooper's has been investigated for fossils since 1938 when Julius Staz found a hominid (ape-man) tooth in the mine dumps at the site while leading a student visit to nearby Sterkfontein. The specimen is tentatively attributed to Australopithecus africanus but this single specimen has since been lost save for a single cast[1]. C.K "Bob" Brain worked at the site in 1954 and recovered a large number of fossil animals but reported no hominids. He also named the two then identified deposits Cooper's A and B. Surprisingly, more than forty years later, work by researchers and students on this collection of Brain's noted two hominid specimens - an isolated tooth and a crushed face[2]. In 2001 Lee Berger discovered a new deposit near where Brain had worked and called it Cooper's D. With Duke University students, local technicians and South African students within days of opening these excavations, hominid remains were found[3].. Cooper's D is now recognized at the fifth richest hominid site in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (behind SterkfonteinSwartkrans, Drimolen and Kromdraai and one of the richest sites for early hominid stone tools of the Developed Olduwan culture,[2]. Excavations are still underway at Cooper's and are currently being directed by Lee Berger and Christine Steininger of the Institute for Human Evolution and the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research at the University of the Witwatersrand. Coopers C is a small deposit of largely microfaunal fossils located approximately 100 meters to the West of Coopers D.

Recovered Fossils

Tens of thousands of fossils have been recovered from Cooper's A and Coopers D with Coopers D now being by far the larger collection. Fossil of hominids have been attributed to both early Homo as well as Paranthropus robustus[3]. Other fauna include many extinct pigs, giant extinct giraffe, monkeys, hyenas, sabre-tooth and false sabre-tooth cats and abundant micro-fauna (mice and rodents)

Tools

Cooper's D has also provided a rich tool assemblage that has been provisionally assigned to the Developed Olduwan. Cooper's is arguably the second richest early stone tool site in the Cradle of Humankind area[2].

Geology

Cooper's is a series of breccia-filled dolomitic caves that formed in fissures along geological faults[3].

age of the deposits

Cooper's D has been absolutely dated to 1.65 to 1.8 million years old [3]. Cooper's A, based on the animals recovered, is thought to be about the same age[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Berger et al. (1993). . S. Afr. J. Sci.. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hilton-Barber. B and Berger, L.R (2003). . Struik. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Berger et al. (2003). . S. Afr. J. Sci..