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These scientists have used several methods to excavate fossils from the Sterkfontein caves and other sites in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.Fossils are carefully uncovered from the surrounding breccia with delicate airscribes.Since 1966, work at Sterkfontein has been undertaken mostly by scientists from the University of the Witwatersrand, which owns the site.Excavations and dating have been conducted by Professor Phillip Tobias, Alun Hughes, Professor Ron Clarke, Dr Kathy Kuman, Professor Tim Partridge and others.From 1945 onward, he and his colleague, John Robinson, used controlled explosions to extract more fossils.In 1957, Dr CK “Bob” Brain of the Transvaal Museum found stone tools in a miners’ dump and Robinson and Revil Mason used a grid system to excavate in the stone tool area.This method has been used to obtain a date of about 4.1-million years for the “Little Foot” skeleton, although palaeomagnetism dating places it slightly younger (about 3.3-million years ago).Estimates of the age of hominids from the Cradle of Humankind can be obtained by comparing them and associated animal remains with similar fossils from East Africa that were found in association with volcanic ash deposits.

Brain also discovered stone artefacts at Swartkrans that are between 1.7-million and 1.4-million years old, and are associated with remains of early Homo.The East African sediments can be dated accurately using techniques such as carbon dating, which entails the analysis of isotopes of radioactive potassium (K) and stable argon (Ar).The natural decay rate of the potassium isotopes relative to argon can be used as a measure of elapsed time.Researchers use a number of techniques to date the cave deposits.Palaeomagnetism is a method used to date deposits at Sterkfontein and other Cradle of Humankind sites.Palaeoanthropology is the scientific study of hominid fossils and their cultural material and origins.Sterkfontein is home to one of the world’s longest running palaeontological excavations.Sterkfontein has produced some of the most famous hominid fossils in the world, together with a range of other fossils of animals and plants.The site has a very high concentration of fossils – the highest in the Cradle of Humankind – which, as a whole, has produced more fossils of early hominids than any other site on Earth.In 1966, Ian Watt developed a greatly extended grid system, before Professor Phillip Tobias and Alun Hughes began their excavations.Fossils and artefacts are extracted from the cave site by drilling and breaking the breccia.


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  2. Palaeoanthropology is the scientific study of hominid fossils and their cultural material and origins. Sterkfontein is home to one of the world's longest running palaeontological excavations. Sterkfontein has produced some of the most famous hominid fossils in the world, together with a range of other fossils of animals and.

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