Is Homo gautengensis a valid species?

Homo gautengensis is a hominin species whose remains were discovered in the South African paleocaves of Sterkfontain, Drimolen, Kromdraai, and Gondolin. First described by Curnoe in 2010, it was suggested to have lived 2.00-0.82 million years ago (based on multi-method chronological seriation) in South, and possibly East, Africa. Bivariate analysis comparing cranial and mandibular measurements between cases Stw 53 and SK 847 and means and ranges of cranial, mandibular, and dental measurements from H. habilis and H. erectus suggest that Stw 53 is significantly different from H. habilis and H. erectus, may represent a novel species. According to Curnoe (2010), size of remains and timeline together suggest that Stw 53 represents H. gautengensis, a novel hominin species that pre-dates H. habilis, making it the earliest recognized species of Homo at the time of publication.

A Web of Science search of articles citing Curnoe (2010) turned up fifteen sources, none of which dispute or support H. gautengensis as a novel species. Further, only two articles published since Curnoe (2010) re-analyze Stw 53. Williams, Schoreder, and Ackermann (2012) refers to an historical debate on whether Stw 53 is Australopithecus or Homo, and ultimately concludes that Stw 53 and SK 847 “tend to resemble those East African Homo specimens that are the most australopith-like in the manifestation of midfacial traits” (Williams, Schroeder, and Ackermann 2012: 255); however, they make no mention of H. gautengensis as a separate species from H. habilis. Moreover, Braga et al. (2013) omitted Stw 53 and SK 847 from calculations of group means in their analysis because “[t]he specimens were considered as unknown” (450). Finally, Schroeder, Roseman, Cheverud, Ackermann (2014) analyze Stw 53 and SK 847 as undifferentiated early Homo. It seems that, in general, there is neither enough information to support nor dismiss H. gautengensis as a novel species, and more research needs to be done in order to form a conclusion.


Braga, J., Thackeray, J. F., Dumoncel, J., Descouens, D., Bruxelles, L., Loubes, J.-M., . . . Spoor, F. (2013). A new partial temporal bone of a juvenile hominin from the site of Kromdraai B (South Africa). Journal of Human Evolution, 65(4), 447-456.

Curnoe, D. (2010). A review of early Homo in southern Africa focusing on cranial, mandibular and dental remains, with the description of a new species (Homo gautengensis sp nov.). Homo-Journal of Comparative Human Biology, 61(3), 151-177.

Schroeder, L., Roseman, C. C., Cheverud, J. M., & Ackermann, R. R. (2014). Characterizing the Evolutionary Path(s) to Early Homo. Plos One, 9(12).

Williams, F. L. E., Schroeder, L., & Ackermann, R. R. (2012). The mid-face of lower Pleistocene hominins and its bearing on the attribution of SK 847 and StW 53. Homo-Journal of Comparative Human Biology, 63(4), 245-257.