it would not be possible to have rocket engines capable of transporting man to the moon.
STERKFONTEIN (From reports by Reinoud Boers and Val Ward)
Following a picnic lunch we moved on to Sterkfontein where Or Ron Clarke of the Palaeoanthropology Research Unit (PARU) at the University of the Witwatersrand gave the history of excavations there and the significance of the ma jor fossil discoveries. He was not then in a position to reveal the most exciting of recent finds, which hit the headlines at the end of July' (see "'Little Footll and LaetolI', this issue). At the end of the nineteenth century lime-workers began quarrying the site, but it was only in the 1930s that the quest for fossils began. Or Robed Broom first visited Sterkfontein in 1936, and dis covered the famous Mrs (Mr?) Pies (P/esianthropus) in 1947. Researchers from Wits Uni versity, including the late Mr Alun Hughes who worked there for over 25 years, have been excavating the ancient cave infill since the 1940s.
A 'splitter' rather than a'lumper', OrClarke differentiates between Austra/opithecus africanus and Homo habilis amongst the Sterkfontein fossils. Recent excavations have yielded 01- dowan-type tools made on quartz, which Or Clarke esti mates to be two million years old and therefore the oldest known stone tools in South Africa. Fossil plant material has been identified as a tropical vine which, together with the occu rrence then of Giant Colobus monkeys, is sugges tive of tropical gallery forest con ditions.
Or Clarke has helped with the redevelopment of the small museum at Sterkfontein, well worth a visit.
DRIMOLEN (From the report by Reinoud Boers)
On the second day of our trail of discovery in the Krugersdorp
The Digging Stick
Valley, over 50 members visited Orimolen (for an account of this site, see The Digging Stick 11 (3):4-5, Nov 1994). Onmolen, in the view of Or Andre Keyser, could turn out to be a biggerdig than Swartkrans or Krom draai, although at present the
has hardly been
Swartkrans. Photo: Mary
We gathered on pathologist Piet van Orimmelen's farm to meet Or Keyser, geologist turned palaeontologist. Spurning the tractor and trailer provided, most members walked the 4 km through unspoilt land scape to a shady picnic spot just ahead of the site. While the mieliepap and bredie were stirred over the fire for our lunchtime braai, Or Keyser introduced the site - a vast cave system, measuring 150 sq m, and with 20 m of breccia, extremely rich in fos sils and flowstone exposed in many places. There are three sinkholes, one of which could still be active. The largest, some 20 sq m in extent, is the site of the initial excavation, much of it with the help of Transvaal Branch members, who were present in force at the opening up of the site.
Apart from 15 hominid teeth, Orimolen has yielded a finger bone - unusual for early hominid remains, as the extremities of the
body rarely survived - most likely being devoured by camivores.
The site has the potential to keep South Africa's palaeoan thropological community busy for decades. Or Keyser has again agreed to welcome Ar chaeological Society mem bers to help at the dig.
Furnivall, Natal Branch.
MAKAPANSGAT VALLEY (From the report by Lilith Wynne)
The magic of a weekend in the Makapansgat Valley never di minishes and the Jubilee year visit was made particularly special by Or Jeff McKee's en thusiastic and lively approach.
Or McKee, the Principallnves tigator for the Makapan Research Project, first showed us the fossil-rich 'dumps' left by trav ertine miners between 1912 and 1935. Lime was then in high demand for agriculture, cement and gold processing.
In the late 1940s James Kitch ing and Alun Hughes hand sorted this dump material, which of course lacked secure stratigraphic provenance, al though three distinctly col oured breccias could be recognised. Near the en trance we paused for a mo ment at the plaque erected to the memory of the late Alun Hughes.
Vol12 (3) Nov 1995